So the model here seems to be, people coming out of near-death experiences have these memories, and while they're likely not "real", they're a record of some sequence of cognitive states, and the puzzle is, how can we detect these cognitive states? There seems to be an underlying assumption that the memories are a faithful chronological record of something, and the investigation is, what is the something -- what is the brain recording while it's apparently inert.
This may well be right, they seem to have good evidence of apparently-inert brains being not-so-inert, so at this point I suppose I'm quibbling.
But the part I have never understood about discussions of near-death experiences (IANAneurologist) is, why do so many of these stories assume that the memories people wake up with were created during the apparently-inert time? It's true that the memories are subjectively of long duration, people report that they remember spending a lot of time flying towards the light or conversing with the angels, but surely they can be sincere without being right.
We know a fair amount now about how memories can be manipulated, and how recollections depend on the environment -- memories are very slippery things. So, isn't it possible that, during the apparently-inert period of a near-death experience, the brain actually is inert, and not forming memories, and that at the time of recovery, during which there is plenty of obvious brain activity, the memories are all formed in a brief period, but with the subjective sense of having taken place over a longer period? This means the memories are basically wrong, but this seems to me to be a much lower bar to clear than requiring chronologically faithful memory construction in quiescent gray matter.
Any neurologists in the crowd care to comment?