Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain

TIMOTHY VERSTYNEN
BRADLEY VOYTEK
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wq0w3
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  • Book Info
    Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
    Book Description:

    Even if you've never seen a zombie movie or television show, you could identify an undead ghoul if you saw one. With their endless wandering, lumbering gait, insatiable hunger, antisocial behavior, and apparently memory-less existence, zombies are the walking nightmares of our deepest fears. What do these characteristic behaviors reveal about the inner workings of the zombie mind? Could we diagnose zombism as a neurological condition by studying their behavior? InDo Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?, neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek apply their neuro-know-how to dissect the puzzle of what has happened to the zombie brain to make the undead act differently than their human prey.

    Combining tongue-in-cheek analysis with modern neuroscientific principles, Verstynen and Voytek show how zombism can be understood in terms of current knowledge regarding how the brain works. In each chapter, the authors draw on zombie popular culture and identify a characteristic zombie behavior that can be explained using neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and brain-behavior relationships. Through this exploration they shed light on fundamental neuroscientific questions such as: How does the brain function during sleeping and waking? What neural systems control movement? What is the nature of sensory perception?

    Walking an ingenious line between seriousness and satire,Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?leverages the popularity of zombie culture in order to give readers a solid foundation in neuroscience.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5192-8
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PRELUDE SACRIFICES NOT MADE IN VAIN
    (pp. ix-x)

    This book is about science. It is about exploring the essence of what it means to be a thinking human being. Unfortunately neuroscience is a science built partly on tragedy.

    Much of our understanding of the human brain comes from studying instances where an injury or malady has afflicted the brain of a living person. These individuals are not just anonymous people hidden behind initials in the medical literature, they are our loved ones. They are our parents, our spouses, our siblings, our children, and our best friends. Yet as a result of some misfortune their lives are permanently altered...

  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Having picked this book off the shelf, you’re probably asking yourself, “How could there be a neuroscience of zombies?” While yes, zombies do have brains (you have to destroy their brains in order “kill” them, or so the myth goes), we would be hard pressed to make a case that “zombie neuroscience” qualifies as its own field of study.Neuroscience—the study of the brain, particularly its relationship to behavior and cognition—already has its fair share of perhaps silly and fantastical “specialty” subfields; why add to the list?

    Well, did you know that we neuroscientists have the answer to...

  6. CHAPTER 1 GRAYʹS (UNDEAD) ANATOMY
    (pp. 7-26)

    You are about to read a book about the zombiebrain. Just think about that for a minute. Let the thought really soak in. Reflect on the decisions you’ve made in your life that led you to this point.

    Now let’s get a bit meta for a moment and think about all of that thinking and reflecting you just did. First, you read some words that we wrote via a semi-creative process. You understood those words and they changed your behavior. You reflected on your life by some internal memory recollection process. Perhaps you even thought about what decisions led...

  7. CHAPTER 2 DO ZOMBIES DREAM OF UNDEAD SHEEP?
    (pp. 27-48)

    It all started in 1968, in a small graveyard, somewhere in the farmlands of rural Pennsylvania. Barbara and Johnny were visiting their father’s grave. Johnny, being a teasing little brat, decides to play on Barbara’s fears of all things that go bump in the night.

    “They’re coming for you, Barbara,” he says, after remembering that his sister is frightened of graveyards. “They’re coming for yooooouu!”

    Just after this famous taunt, a mysterious stranger enters the scene and comes lumbering slowly toward them. At first, the audience thinks he’s drunk or maybe just sick. He meanders with uncoordinated and belabored movements,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 THE NEURAL CORRELATES OF LUMBERING
    (pp. 49-65)

    In the movieDawn of the Dead(1978) there is a scene when anarchist outlaws break into the mall that the movie’s heroes had secured and lived in for weeks. This invasion subsequently allows the horde of zombies—which had been aggregating outside—free range of the place. The humans are zipping around playing games while the zombies lumber along slowly and clumsily. The humans easily dispatch the threat of individual zombies because the undead are just too darn slow; there’s no real threat until the humans are outnumbered.

    The slow and uncoordinated movements of zombies are perhaps the most...

  9. CHAPTER 4 HUNGRY, ANGRY, AND STUPID IS NO WAY TO GO THROUGH UNLIFE
    (pp. 66-89)

    All you can hear is the low snarl coming from outside the closet door. You can’t think of anything else but that thing’s half-rotted jaw tearing into your throat. Your every muscle is tensed to the point of pain. Your heart is racing. You’re sweating. All your instincts tell you to run. The creature tracking you has been relentless. You’d thought you lost it when you first broke into this house and hid yourself away in an upstairs bedroom closet. But now, while you sit wounded amidst a stranger’s clothes and old luggage, you realize that your undead predator can...

  10. CHAPTER 5 THEREʹS NO CRYING IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!
    (pp. 90-103)

    A zombie horde, by definition, consists of a hell of a lot of zombies traveling in a pack looking for some people to eat. How is it that a mass of zombies can mill about a mall all day long without murdering one another, but the moment a living, breathing person accidentally wanders into the fray there’s suddenly a feeding frenzy?

    How can zombies tell the living from the undead? Why don’t they kill and eat each other? There’s one hint in what’s already a classic scene in both comic book and television history viaThe Walking Dead: Rick and...

  11. CHAPTER 6 TONGUE-TIED AND TWISTED
    (pp. 104-130)

    When two civilized people are in disagreement, often they will try to talk to each other to work out their differences. Very rarely do ideological disagreements result in one party trying to rip out and eat the other party’s spleen.

    Zombies, it is rarely said, are a civilized group.

    What we’re trying to get at is this: zombies aren’t known for their oratory skills. You are not going to talk your way out of the zombie apocalypse. You are not going to convince the rotting cadaver knocking down your door to sign a peace treaty and settle on your terms...

  12. CHAPTER 7 DISENGAGEMENT DEFICIT OF THE DEAD
    (pp. 131-148)

    How many times have we seen a horde of zombies lumbering toward a potential victim only to be distracted by a car alarm, fireworks, or a gunshot that shifts the momentum of the undead mob in the direction of a new target? It is as if the undead spend their whole un-lives going from one attention-grabbing stimulus to the next. They’re easily distractible and inattentive creatures. That’s just how they work.

    But this isn’t always a bad thing if you’re a human.

    The human survivors inLand of the Dead(2005) used the distractible nature of the undead to their...

  13. CHAPTER 8 WHOSE UNDEAD FACE IS THIS, ANYWAY?
    (pp. 149-165)

    As a human with a loved one who has just turned into a zombie, it can sometimes be difficult to understand that this bloody, drooling, groaning beast lumbering toward you will not recognize you as the person she once loved. No matter how long you have known her, once she has turned into an undead walker that spark of recognition will never again appear in her eyes—ever!

    Think back to the Coopers fromNight of the Living Dead(1968). Their daughter Judy had been bitten during their initial escape and she was slowly becoming a “ghoul” in the basement...

  14. CHAPTER 9 HOW AM I NOT MYSELF?
    (pp. 166-178)

    While becoming a full-on zombie isn’t a pleasant experience, sometimes even just a partial infection of the zombie plague can be quite problematic. Consider the classic scene fromEvil Dead 2(1987), where the main character Ash gets his right hand infected by the demonic spirit that has taken control of the rest of his friends in the cabin. Desperate to treat the bite wound that delivered the infection, Ash rinses his hand in water from the kitchen sink. As if simple tap water will stay the demonic possession. The moment he relaxes and lets his guard down, everything goes...

  15. CHAPTER 10 ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE UNDEAD MIND
    (pp. 179-201)

    One of the most famous characters in the movieLand of the Dead(2005) is a zombie that is affectionally referred to as Big Daddy. There is a moment during the zombie “awakening” when this shambling ex–gas station attendant hears a familiar cue of the full service bell being rung. Slowly he lumbers out to the pump, takes the nozzle off the handle, and turns around looking confused. He doesn’t speak, but the expression on his face says it all: “What am I doing with this thing in my hand? Why did I come here again?” It was as...

  16. CHAPTER 11 FIGHTING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE … WITH SCIENCE!
    (pp. 202-230)

    For the past however many hours (days, weeks …) it has taken you to read this book up to this point, you have, we hope, gained some insight into how the brain works in humans and, possibly, insights into zombies too. In this little intellectual journey across the landscape of the mind we have covered many topics:

    How does the brain give rise to sleeping and waking?

    What neural systems make us move?

    What is the nature of hunger and fear and anger, and, more importantly, how are these all related in the brain?

    How do we speak or understand...

  17. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 231-232)
  18. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 233-250)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 251-262)