Hi rcr - Thanks for some really helpful points of clarification. We definitely don't want people to come away thinking brain death is not brain death. I don't think we ever used that term, and should have for contrast - Carrie mentioned that when someone is "clinically dead" (stopping of circulatory action) there can still be activity in the brain. That is not controversial.
We were specifically addressing post hoc discussions about people who come back from near death (the subject of the podcast and the operating word being "near"), and champions of NDE proclaiming that the person could not possibly have had any mental activity occurring. Those champions are wrong, because the brain was still alive. No one who has an NDE experience has come back from brain death because… no one comes back from brain death. Hence the mention of Miracle Max and the difference between mostly dead and all dead.
I re-listened to that section, and we certainly could have made that clearer - that's the bummer of the podcast format that we can't go back in and add clarification notes. We certainly hope that listeners do not come away with the impression that a doctor is wrong when declaring brain death, or that our commentary factors into discussions of end-of-life decisions. I really don't think we implied that, though… I feel it's quite a leap from what we said to what you're deriving from it. But this is your field of expertise, so I can see why you'd be more attuned to the things that confuse people.
One would also hope people heed the announcer's admonition that "nothing the hosts say should be taken as medical advice or opinion." Of course, that's not an excuse to get facts wrong.
I definitely goofed when discussing measuring activity by proxy. The proxy part is true - we can't directly pinpoint individual neurons firing in real-time and must detect their effects indirectly - but my follow-up mention of oxygen supply and blood flow is specific to fMRI and NIRS. I was thinking about fMRI as an imaging technique as I was speaking, but that's in relation to mapping neural correlates of consciousness, and not about detecting signs of life. I did not quantify that, so my description left out CT scans, PET scans, MEG and EEG, which are different detection methods with different uses and relative advantages. You're right that EEG is really the most relevant method to our subject, so that was a mistake on my part.