Faculty from the Division of Perceptual Studies highlight the Unit’s work since its founding, including studies of purported past lives, near-death experiences, and mind-brain interactions in phenomena such as deep meditation, veridical out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, apparent communication from deceased persons, altered states of consciousness, and terminal lucidity in persons with irreversible brain damage.


The University of Virginia is one of the few academic institutions in the world to have a department dedicated to several major areas of afterlife research. According to its website, The Division of Perceptual Studies or DOPS “strives to challenge this entrenched mainstream view by rigorously evaluating empirical evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death and that mind and brain are distinct and separable”.

The creation of DOPS in 1967 was initially made possible by the financial support of philanthropist Chester Carlson, a multimillionaire physicist, inventor, and lawyer. He had been a great supporter of Dr. Ian Stevenson’s work with children who remembered past lives and gave significant funding both before his death and in his will. The unit has had to be self-sustaining as it receives no money from taxpayers or the University and other generous bequests have been vital to its survival. Read more about the history of DOPS.

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