The Neuropsychology of Zombies

"They're coming to get you Barbara!"

When the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased begin to rise from the earth and seek human flesh as sustenance, a small group of survivors take refuge inside of a farmhouse. Armed only with guns, blunt instruments and the knowledge that a blow to the head is the only means of taking down their decaying assailants, the living must attempt to last the night. Director George A. Romero gave rise to the survival horror genre with this landmark film, and his vision of the slow-moving, cannibalistic walking dead quickly became the textbook definition of "zombie".

Joining us before the film to discuss the theoretical neuroscience of zombies and the psychological effects they have on others is psychiatrist Steven Schlozman, MD, a self-described zombie film fanatic and pop culture enthusiast. What would the brain of a zombie look like? What can neuroscience tell us about zombies’ lack of executive function, lousy balance, and outsized appetites? From a psychological perspective, why do normal people, in the absence of being infected, descend to sub-cortical zombie behavior in almost every zombie movie? And just what is it about the concept of the living dead that continually fascinates audiences? Zombie fans will have lots to chew on…

Steven Schlozman is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and lecturer in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the editor of the "Youth Culture Column" for the Newsletter of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and he writes about the interface of popular culture, music, and the humanities throughout medical education.

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