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The Zombie Brain

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Karolyn Webb

on 1 October 2016

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Transcript of The Zombie Brain

Why worry? Zombies aren't real . . . right?
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis - The Zombie Fungus
The Human Brain
Sagittal Section of the Human Brain
Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome AKA "Zombie-ism"
Ataxia - Group of disorders that affect speech, balance and coordination
Ataxia - The Zombie Walk
Neurodegenerative - is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain.
Neurones and the Brain
The human brain has about 80 billion neurons

The fruit fly has about 100,000 neurons
Each Neuron connects
to other neurons, there
are approximately
100 trillion connections in the human brain
Neurons transmit information through electrical and chemical signals
Satiety Deficiency - An inability to feel full or satisfied
What would the Zombie brain look like?
The Frontal Lobes
This part of the brain is involved with "executive functioning"
Zombies must have some executive function as they can "see" and "hear" us
Zombies have just enough frontal lobe activity to "listen" to the thalamus
The frontal lobe function most relevant to understanding zombie behavior is the control of "impulsivity"-the general term for when you do something and, if you had two more seconds, you might not have done it.
For instance, if in a fit of rage you have the sudden urge to punch your boss in the face, the frontal lobe intervenes and allows you to consider why that might be a bad idea.
The Amygdala and Anterior Cingulate Cortex
A zombie is driven entirely by base emotions - such as rage - that are housed in the primitive parts of our brain, notably the amygdala.
A crocodile brain, for instance, is mostly driven by the amygdala.
Researchers have confirmed this by introducing lesions into the amygdala of crocodiles.
"You can't really be mad at zombies, because that's like being mad at a crocodile,"
It's the delicate balance between frontal lobe and amygdala "that makes us human."
That balance is maintained by the anterior cingulate cortex, which modulates and dampens the excitability of the amygdala as it talks to the frontal lobe, before it sends signals toward the motor cortex and we act upon those impulses.

A zombie would have a dysfunctional anterior cingulate cortex, rendering it unable to modulate feelings of anger.
The result? Hyper-aggression.
The Cerebellum and the Basal Ganglia
Should "the infected" in 28 Days Later be classified as zombies?
NO!
Zombies suffer from cerebellar and basal ganglia dysfunction.
Those are the parts of the brain that make fluidity of motion possible.
The basal ganglia helps us with coordinated movement.
The cerebellum helps us with balance.
Mirror Neurons
Mirror neuron theory is a "neurobiological model for empathy, which suggests, in a very hopeful way, that we might be wired to connect with one another."
Just as the same mirror neurons fire when observing and doing certain tasks, so other mirror neurons may be triggered both when experiencing a particular emotion and when observing someone else with that emotion.
What if the things we're fighting have brains that are incapable of connecting?

Zombies keep coming.
They don't look scared.
They don't look excited.
They don't look enraged.
They just keep coming . . .

And that actually freaks out humans more than anything else.
The Ventromedial Hypothalamus
Zombies are always hungry.
The most likely explanation is that zombies don't have a properly functioning ventromedial hypothalamus: the region of the brain that lets you know whether you've eaten enough.
The result is hyperphagia.
Zombies will eat and eat and eat, but never feel satiated.
Final Thoughts on the Zombie Brain
The zombie brain is likely to be very similar to the human brain but with differences in functioning
The name "Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome" refers to the common symptoms of Zombie-ism
And remember . . . if all else fails, no mammal has ever been recorded to survive a complete separation of the head from the neck!
Thank you for Listening!
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The Neurobiology of the Zombie Brain
Full transcript