Monday, 30 September 2013

Angry Zombies

Fit like there students, help yourself to a cup of tea and let’s get into today’s ZomBlog.

I’m preparing our new public lecture, Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead, for it’s debut at the London Horror Festival. In this lecture I’ll be delving into the Zombie brain. Today I thought I’d share some insights into a part of the brain called the amygdala, and what its role is in Zombieism.
The amygdala lies deep within the brain and is about the size of an almond. It plays a key role in the display and control of aggression.

During a study involving monkeys, their amygdalae were stimulated electrically. This led to an increase in aggression. The fact that monkeys react angrily to having their brains electrocuted isn't exactly a revelation, but us scientists have to pass the time somehow.
The size of the amygdala is known to correlate with how aggressive a species is. If a male is castrated, the amygdala can shrink by up to 30 percent. This may offer one method of calming down male Zombies, but, as opposed to the head, usually offers a smaller target.
I'm personally uncomfortable just looking at this tool, never mind attempting to use it on a Zombie
A reason that Zombieism may want to manipulate this area, and cause increased aggression, is to help it spread.
Recent research suggests that parasites often take up residence in the amygdala. The parasite, toxoplasma causes the disease, Toxoplasmosis. Its preferred host is a cat however if it infects a mouse or rat, it changes their behaviour to make them attracted to cat odours. This will increase their chance of being eaten by a cat thus placing the parasite in the host it desires.
Unless of course the mouse has a basic understanding of explosives
In a similar way Zombieism could twist the amygdalae to do its bidding by altering Zombie behaviour, making Zombies more likely to bite, and therefore improving the odds the disease will be transferred.

Zombies biting is a bit of a ‘three for the price of one’ bonus. It’s how they breed, feed, and make us humans take heed.

Find out more about the undead brain by joining me on the 28th & 29th of October 2013 for the brand new lecture Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead at the London Horror Festival, find out more here, and book your tickets by calling 020 7482 4857. The lecture is part of a 3 year project supported by a Society Award from the Wellcome Trust.

Don’t forget, if you have a question you’d like me to answer here in the ZomBlog why not leave it as a comment below? Or visit our Book of Faces and ask your question there.

When it comes to the science of Zombies we’ve got it covered, or at the very least, we can make it sound like we do.

Keep up the good work my students,

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.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Zombie Vs Predator

Ahoy-hoy Zombie Fans, good to have you here for today’s ZomBlog.

Once again I’ll be endeavouring to shine some scientific sense over your Zombiology questions.

The first question we have today is from Lee who asks,
“How do zombies sense their prey? Their eyes are often portrayed as cloudy, so can they see? Can they just 'see' movement? Do they develop other senses, to pick up heat for example? As their infected brains can barely function enough to move their atrophied limbs, how difficult it must be to use barely functioning senses.”
A real Zombie would of course be more like a human being than their fictional counterparts. They’d have the same senses as we do. In movies they are often shown as being super sensitive to smell, noise, and so on. This of course makes for a more dramatic and scary scene, but isn’t based in reality.

The same is true for the eyes. It is creepier to have a Zombie with cloudy, grey, and generally dead eyes. In the book World War Z, one of the characters explains that Zombies don’t blink and their eyes become cloudy as scratches form. 

First we kill the Zombies. Then we kill the spirit of the book.
For us un-undead blinking is an important function. It provides moisture to the eye, allowing us to see nice and clearly. If a human with the Zombie disease didn’t blink, their eyes would dry out, and they would eventually become completely blind.

Real Zombies would be primarily guided by sight and as I mentioned in this previous blog, humans are naturally good at seeing living things compared to inanimate objects.

Unfortunately gaining thermal vision, like the Predator, is out of the realms of possibility for the moment. If we could see the infrared spectrum it would completely overwhelm our eyes.     

Is that the former Governor of California?
So the answer to Lee’s question is that Zombies sense their prey the same way humans do, by seeing, hearing, or smelling them. Lee is right to point out that the damage to their brains is already causing them problems in moving, and in interacting with the world around them. So they’d be utterly terrible at hunting humans - luckily for us!

Next our inquisitive student Nico got back in touch with another question, “What should you do before a zombie crisis ? Buy guns?”

Here at the Zombie Institute we believe that all life is sacred, even Zombie life, and we would never condone or encourage the use of involuntary euthanasia to deal with a Zombieism outbreak. That’s a practice Hitler used, and as a rule, anything Hitler does, we avoid. Tiny mustaches, VW cars, Hugo Boss, etc.

In the event of a Zombie outbreak taking off, there are many excellent government and international agencies who would swoop in to help deal with it. If you look at recent disease outbreaks, Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and so on, you can see how well they have been dealt with without becoming extreme pandemics akin to the plagues of old.

However, if we take Nico’s question as wondering what to do if, for reasons unknown, the Zombieism disease spreads like we see in fiction there are some things you can do to prepare. As Sun Tzu said, know your enemy. 
All great minds know the work of Sun Tzu. And Paris Hilton, who thinks 'that's hot'

By learning all you can about how diseases work, how to control them, and how to treat them you’ll know how best to proceed. For example, if the disease is viral, swallowing a movie star quantity of antibiotics won’t help a bit. If the disease is spread by a bite, and moves through the body very quickly upon infection, there is little point in chopping off your limbs as a preventative measure. Knowledge is power, and by studying this blog, as well as the information on our Institute website you can begin to get educated. You can also attend our live lectures or tutorials. Find one near you on the Tour Dates section of the website .

There are many excellent guides on the internet to preparing for apocalyptic scenarios, so get researching if you’re concerned. Don’t forget the simple stuff, Zombieland taught us the importance of cardio and I personally love this running app, Zombies Run!
I always find sports bras, amazing how these apps know you so well
It has a splendid story intertwined with terrifying Zombie chases. Although, my neighbours have been avoiding me since I began running around shouting about invisible Zombies. And since I got the app too.

So to answer Nico’s question, there are many ways we can prepare for a Zombie disease crisis scenario. But don’t be too scared, here at the Institute we’re looking out for you. As I told the freshman students this week at STD Awareness Day, prevention is better than cure.    

My thanks to Lee and Nico for asking today’s questions. If you have a question you’d like me to answer here in the ZomBlog. Why not leave it as a comment below? Or visit our Book of Faces and ask your question there.

Whatever Zombie knowledge you desire, I’ll do my utmost to oblige.

Take care out there students,

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.

The brand new lecture Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead is premiering at the London Horror Festival on the 28th & 29th of October 2013, find out more here, ( and book your tickets by calling 020 7482 4857

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Vegetarian Zombies

Greetings Zombie Seekers, and a warm welcome to another edition of the ZomBlog.

Today I’ll be answering a pair of questions from our fine Zombiology student body.

The first is from Jim who asks, “If someone is a vegetarian in their pre-zombie state would they refrain from meat? And along the same vein could a zombie be able to recognise nuts and berries as food and survive on non-meat products?”

A famous slogan of vegetarianism is “nothing with a face”, and if fiction has taught us anything, it’s that Zombie’s love nothing more than sucking and tucking into a human’s face.

Vegetarianism comes in many forms, some eat eggs, but no other dairy products, and vegans exclude all animal products including clothing such as leather. There are various reasons people abide by these diets, it might be part of their religious practice or for moral reasons but ultimately it is an active choice.

Our current research indicates that a Zombie’s diet stems from the disease affecting an area of the brain known as the hypothalamus. 

The hypothalamus helps regulate appetite by letting us know when we are hungry, or reversely, full. Dysfunction in this region can make us feel like we are never full, causing us to continually eat. This is called hyperphagia. We believe that a Zombie would be hyperphagic and therefore be compelled to eat continuously.

Areas of the brain also play a role in moral sensitivity. In the 19th century a man named Phineas Gage was involved in an accident. An iron bar was blasted through his head, damaging the frontal lobe of his brain and severely changing his personality. Prior to his accident Phineas was a calm mild mannered man, afterward he became an angry womaniser. By studying Gage scientists learned much about the brain, and that the damaged areas were partly responsible for moral sensitivity.

Phineas had great difficulty finding suitable hats after the accident
We must also consider that the Zombie disease is likely to affect a person’s memories, and personality.

If we combine all of these factors it is unlikely that a vegetarian who subsequently becomes a Zombie could remember their previous diet choices, nor care about maintaining them - on top of this the burning compulsion to eat would lead them to devour anything that is available, including meat.

To answer the second part of Jim’s question, could Zombies survive on non-meat products, our current theories indicate that they could and would. A real Zombie, unlike a movie version, does not have a purely cannibalistic diet, and has similar nutritional requirements to a regular human. Read more about our theories in this handy online guide:!vstc0=zombieism-guide       

In conclusion, a pre-Zombie vegetarian would not carry on this dietary choice once infected, and would be happy to eat anything from meat to veg.
Our second question today comes in from Nico who wants to know, “Do you think its possible for zombies to become useful members of society? For example get jobs etc.”

Of course in some professions no one would notice a difference
The answer to this depends on whether we could develop a treatment for Zombieism that would remove the disease, and whether we could then repair the damage it leaves behind.

If we could do both then Zombies would essentially be human again and able to return to their previous lives.

If we could do neither it would be more difficult, as we’d need to ensure we kept the disease contained and therefore keep infected people away from the uninfected.

If we could remove the disease, but not repair the damage, a Zombie could be left with significant brain injuries leading to difficulties ranging from movement problems to aggression issues. However the human brain is capable of rewiring itself in a process known as neuroplasticity. The aforementioned Phineas Gage overcame many of his initial personality problems over time. So the longer a disease free Zombie lived, the greater the chance it’s brain has of resolving any problems.

Advert for 'In the Flesh'

The television series ‘In the Flesh’ ( examined this scenario with fantastic creativity, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend you check it out.

So in answer to Nico’s question, I’d optimistically say that yes Zombie’s could become useful members of society. It might take some time for treatments and cures to be developed but we’d never simply give up on helping our fellow humans. Eventually we’d find a way.

A big thank you to Jim and Nico for today’s questions. As always I can answer your questions right here on the ZomBlog. Why not leave yours as a comment below? Or visit our Book of Faces ( and ask your question there.

No matter how gruesome or tricky, or trickily gruesome, I’ll endeavour to answer them.

Have a Zom-tastic day students,

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.