Is there a version of Adderall for zombies?
It’s that time of year again, time for pop culture to get swarmed by a shambling horde of brain-hungry zombies. You can blame The Walking Dead – being as immensely popular as it is – but zombies and their kind have been around for as long as we’ve been scared of death and a loss of personal control. Also, getting eaten alive.
But for the geeky, there’s always the lingering question of whether or not zombies are plausible. We’ve seen so many iterations on the theme that it’s fun to compare and theorize about how “slow” and “fast” zombies differ physiologically, for example. In my latest Because Science video, I explored what I think really kills you in The Walking Dead, but a new book goes even further. It gives zombies an official, neuroscientific diagnosis.
Neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek have recently come out with a new book called Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?, in which they apply their neuroscience backgrounds to an investigation of the undead. It’s filled with pages of increasingly nerdy explorations of zombie behavior, and I highly recommend it, but what really caught my eye was the authors’ conclusion: All the walking dead have Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder, or CDHD.
The condition is described as follows:
Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder (CDHD)
“CDHD is an acquired syndrome whereby patients present with a lack of intentional control over their actions, lethargic and fatigued movements (akinesthesia), loss of pleasure (anhedonia), general language dysfunction (aphasia), memory impairments (amnesias), and as inability to surpress appetitive actions such as eating or aggressive “fight-or-flight” behaviors. Patients with CDHD often present with severe difficulty in recognizing familiar objects or individuals (agnosias) and persistent sleep disturbances reflected as chronic insomnia that results in a subsequent “waking delirium” state. CDHD patients also present antisocial behavior patterns (e.g., trying to bite or consume people) and these typically violent behaviors are strictly targeted at living humans. Indeed, a very strong pro-social behavior is expressed toward other infected individuals, as evidenced by the clustering and “swarm intelligence” of herds of infected individuals.”
The CDHD diagnosis is the general description, but it breaks down further into CDHD-1 (slow zombies) and CDHD-2 (fast zombies). Voytek and Verstynen don’t explain why there are two variants of the zombie disease, but they do have an idea why it produces different kinds of zombies: the call it the time-to-resurrection hypothesis.
It goes like this. The longer the brain goes without oxygen or nutrients, the more damaged it gets. Therefore, the longer it takes for a zombification to reboot your body, the more brain damage that zombie will have. Fast zombies, which traditionally “turn” very quickly then can move the way they do because they have less brain damage than the slow zombies. It makes sense, because science!
You can order a copy of Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? here.
Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.