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It has been noted that individuals who are close to death often engage in a sudden flurry of activity in the final days of their lives.
People are known to seek to make amends in troubled relationships, confess to prior transgressions and put their financial affairs in order on the very eve of their death. While some people have suggested that the acts themselves might have a profound psychological effect on the person which leads them to ‘give in’ to their inevitable death, there may be a different scientific reason for this striking pattern of behavior.
Human beings instinctively know when they are going to die
It is well known that most wild animals are particularly sensitive to the smell of putrescine which is the foul smelling and toxic smell that organisms emit immediately before death and in the stages of putrefaction and decomposition. Wild animals know that this smell is associated with potentially dangerous predators who may have made a fresh kill. In addition to this, scavenging animals such as vultures and hyenas will follow the scent of putrescine to potential food sources. New research suggests that human beings are also in tune with the ability to sniff out putrescine and, furthermore, humans seem to subconsciously understand the significance of the smell.
Arnaud Wisman from the University of Kent’s School of Psychology in Canterbury in the United Kingdom and Ilan Shira from the Department of Behavioral Sciences in Arkansas’ Tech University in Russellville in Arkansas in the United States have cooperated in a ground breaking study which assesses human behavior when exposed to putrescine. They exposed participants in their experiment to three different smells – water, which has a neutral smell, ammonia which has a sharp and unpleasant odor and putrescine.
Wiseman and Shira found that when the participants were exposed to the putrescine odor they were prone to immediately move away from the area as though they believed it was dangerous. This strongly suggests that the primal regions of their brain recognized the smell like the scent of death and compelled them to move away from the vicinity of the smell in case something close by might pose a danger to them.
Given the fact that human beings can innately detect and understand the odor of putrescine, this might cast some new light on the behavior of individuals in their final days of life. It may suggest that they have begun to smell the beginning stages of decomposition on their own body and are aware that their death is imminent. This inherent understanding might be responsible for so many people instinctively seeking to put their affairs in order on the eve of their deaths.
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