Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Walking Corpse Syndrome

Hello Zombiology Students and a warm welcome to the ZomBlog.

Today we're looking at Walking Corpse Syndrome, also known as Cotard's Syndrome. This rare mental condition causes people to believe they are dead, putrefying and missing internal organs - essentially Zombieism of the mind.

You have a medical licence right?

Cotard's Syndrome takes its name from French Neurologist Jules Cotard who encountered a patient named, Mademoiselle X (perhaps a relation of Professor X). Mademoiselle X claimed to have no brain, no nerves, no chest, no stomach, and no intestines. She also believed she was immortal and therefore didn't need to eat. She died of starvation.

"I ain't related to no French Bird Bro. They don't even have a word for entrepreneur."

The condition is usually found in patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia - leading many Doctors to see it as a component of these illnesses.

More recently a patient, known only as Graham, was identified with the syndrome. Graham believed his brain had died. Neurologists Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter, UK, and Steven Laureys at the University of Li├Ęge in Belgium, met with Graham and took scans of his brain. The type of scan they carried out is called positron emission tomography (PET) and is used to produce detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body. Before being scanned the patient has a radioactive substance passed into their body. The substance gives off gamma waves (a type of radiation) that can be detected by the scanner. The scans taken of Graham were the first ever conducted on someone with Cotard's Syndrome.

A PET Scan. Or maybe this is a CAT Scan. I get them confused.

What they discovered was amazing. The activity in certain areas of his brain was so low it was comparable to someone in a vegetative state.

Laureys explained,

I've been analysing PET scans for 15 years and I've never seen anyone who was on his feet, who was interacting with people, with such an abnormal scan result. Graham's brain function resembles that of someone during anaesthesia or sleep. Seeing this pattern in someone who is awake is quite unique to my knowledge.

Adam Zeman continued, "It seems plausible that the reduced metabolism was giving him this altered experience of the world, and affecting his ability to reason about it."

The condition caused Graham to completely withdraw into himself. He found no pleasure in anything, he stopped eating, speaking and even brushing his teeth. This caused his teeth to turn black, further compounding his feelings that he was dead.

After lengthy psychotherapy and drug treatment Graham gradually recovered. There have been reports that using antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers combined with traditional talking therapies have helped those who suffer from the illness.

With being such a rare condition, research into this mysterious syndrome is very limited. Could it be that when Zombies do appear the disease affecting them will induce such a syndrome? Only time will tell.

Keep up your studies and join me again next time for more science behind the undead here on the ZomBlog.

Best wishes,

Doctor Austin

Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep, is a Theoretical Zombiologist and Head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland UK.

Left: Doctor Austin Right: HRH The Queen

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