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Neuroscience diagnosis of zombie [cartoon]

October 24, 2012

“A possible medical diagnosis of zombies, just in case they end up being real” in Boing Boing embeds this video from Zombie Research Society neuroscientists Bradley Voytek and Tim Verstynen. Recall they were profiled in Chronicle of Higher Education this summer for their blog about zombie brains.

Now they have a new zombie cartoon that teaches some basic brain and behavior vocabulary. Yay for Wernicke’s area. Also Parkinson’s, dopamine, cerebellum, ataxia, aphasia, Broca’s area, elderberries, temporal, parietal, arcuate fasciculus — but what? no mention of amygdala?!!?

Meanwhile, I would like to note Alva Noë‘s work – you are not your brain – our society, learned habits, off-loaded resources – these environment factors construct our mind in interaction with our neural material and have as much or more to do with who we are. Modern neuroscience overemphasizes the importance of the brain.

In the above cartoon we have a patient in a medical exam room (brain in a jar?). There is no spike through this zombie’s head (see Phineas Gage) and absent any known injury to the brain, it seems unlikely that a person with a wound to his shoulder is there because of a brain defect. But this is not a person, this is a presumed zombie from the beginning of the examination. Maybe he is a poor homeless uneducated foreigner in need of medical treatment for his open arm wound – and perhaps a shower, some food and a bed. Instead some mistake in intake sent him for a brain MRI and now he is pacing around the room grunting in pain from his arm and hunger. Maybe that shoulder wound is the result of a festering needle injection and he actually needs treatment for withdrawal from drug addiction. Maybe he didn’t really need an expensive radiological brain scan, probably just needs some stitches, antibiotics and social services. How many bilingual nurses’ salaries are equivalent to the cost of a brain scan? Are there epistemological implications to thinking of patients as zombies?

From → Academics

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