This is one thing that has fascinated me for many years. In a critical moment in our lives, many have experienced this slow motion effect. It is often described as time standing still. I have been exploring this for years now, wondering how and why this happens.
One individual, a religious teacher of sorts, a buddhist had stated that this slow motion effect was nothing more than brain operation. When he spoke of brain operation, he was implying that the brain functions normally about 65 to 75 %. But in crisis mode, the brain kicks into gear and begins to operate at 100%. This buddhist monk stated that brain normally does not operate at its efficiency until we reach that crisis mode. As we find ourselves in crisis, the brain functions increase. This increase takes into account all the knowledge that we have and some “what we believe might occur” in a situation. As we encounter this crisis, our brain operates at full capacity, which gives us the slow motion effect. As the brain processes during this crisis, we often can remember time “standing still”. But the teachings are not that time has stood still, but rather our brain has operated at its most efficient state, therefore we can remember everything about this situation.
Now this is all theory, based on a religious practice and teaching. But recently, Dr. David Eagleman decided to look into this slow motion effect. See, when David was little, he had an experience of exploration. As a young man, his adventures lead him to a house under construction. As he was exploring that new adventure, he fell through the roof landing 12 feet below. At the age of 8, this did not mean much, but as he grew older and became the neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, it peaked his curiosity.
That .86 second fall lead to some really intense research into this subject about the brains slow motion effect.
After some failed research, Dr. Eagleman discovered SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device). This gave him the research tools that he needed to prove his hypothesis. Normally, you brain will see and experience many things. But on a daily basis, your brain does not record those events. But when some crisis occurs, you brain kicks into gear and begins etchings of the moment. The brain begins to record the moment, keeping every detail in tact. As a result, his theory is that your brain begins to make sense of all that you experience. This all happens in a short amount of time, but because your brain is recording everything, it appears to be slow motion. And when you play back the incident, you have such great detail about the moment. And since there are so many details, you feel that it was in slow motion.
Two very interesting theories, from two different worlds. First the world of Philosophy / Theology and the other from Science. I guess that they are pretty close to one another.
You can read the story about Dr. Eagleman on NPR.