ZOMBIES AND PAIN
Zombies are vogue we love them , brainless and souless flesh eating menanace they defiantely are and perhaps they represent a kind of ulimate challenge . There are numerous films and tv series based on this idea of an infection spreading across the world and turning some of its inhabitants into
‘zombies ‘ whilst a relative mnority become survivors pitted against the lack of resources in a world gone cazy and the flesh hungry hoardes intent on nothing much more than ‘dinner’ . A search on the net reveals much information of the undead as they are , Pinterest and designyoutrust.com has a rather starnge set of pinboards with zombie attack vehicles fully armed and armoured to ‘Take them out’.
Ok so for those of a more sensitive diet of media , heres a bit of info. Firstly – What is a zombie
Wikepedia gives us an elaborate answer:
‘Within Haitian religion, zombie (haitian,Creole:zonbi) is an animated corpse raised by magical means , ssuch as witchcraft.
In popular culture however zombies are the result of a mass infective agent , they are mindless and reanimated with a hunger for human flesh . This is known as the “zombie apocalypse” concept in which the civilised world is brought low by a global zombie infestation.
The defining features of a zombie are as follows:
Uncommunicative, inability to form a sentence, may groan
Poor Bodily Hygiene, bad breath, may be covered in blood – flatulence is frequent
may appear drunk, cannot drive
Seem to have an insatiable urge to grab you
Sounds a lot like an excursion into Broad Street Birmingham on a Friday night out ( its got to be seen to be believed!!)
For our geeky scientists zombies have become a bit of a virtual crash dummy , by examining concepts of mind, the brain and nervous system and concepts of soul by full human realisation against zombie life.
A philosophical zombie is used in ‘zombie arguments’ to discuss the process of thoughts and the quality of ‘humaness’ The unifying idea of a zombie is of a human that has no concious experience, but one might distinguish various types of zombie used in different thought experiments as follows:
A behavioural zombie that is behaviourly indistinguishable from a human
A neurological zombie that has human brain and is generally physiological indistinguishable from a human.
A souless zombie that lacks a soul
For a discussion on the process of pain just to make it a little fun , the question is does a zombie feel pain . Well a little explanation about the processes of pain will create an answer.
Pain is a signal that something in the body has damaged or gone wrong, its useful because its built in to make us take alternative action . Its closely linked to our fight or flight system which of course is part of survival.
Our heart beats faster our breathing quickens and we get ready to stand our ground or run away .
There are two types of pain Acute which is new and or serious , and chronic which may be an old injury or due to bodliy changes such as growing or ‘wear and tear’ There are two ways in which it travels to the brain , to simplify lets call these the fast roads like motorways and the slow road like side roads. The roads leading out of the brain are called motor and create movement/action , the roads to the brain are called sensory and they carry information about what we see feel, smell and hear. For instance if you step on a rock the sensory roads determine what’s happening , is it light touch, or deep pressure or an injury. Pain receptors conveying injury or the potential of it are called nocioceptors. Even if the rock does’nt break the skin the compression of tissues can fire off a response. Pain then travels down the road we have mentioned to the spinal cord , this acts as a middle man , these ‘roads travel up and down from the brain. However the spinal cord is also specialised to make some immediate decisions that do not require input from the brain , these decision are called reflexes. An area called the dorsal horn acts as the information centre this will allow an immediate retraction fom the painful stimulus but also allow communication with the brain. When the pain signal reaches the brain it reaches a place called the thalmus where it is directed to a few different areas for interpretation. Higher centres of the cortex figure out where the pain came from and make comparisons to what we may have encountered already in our lives. Was it sharp? Did it hurt more than stepping on glass or a pin, Have you experienced something like this before if so is this better or worse?
Signals are also sent to the limbic system which is our emotional centre thus we may cry or some other very strong emotion may result , many years ago when I injured my back I remember being in pain but then that feeling turning into a kind of hysterical laughter – weird sounds a bit zombie like I think?
Feelings are associated with every kind of pain you feel , heart rate may increase or you may break out into a sweat – a slightly common phenomena is young men getting sweaty and feinting when receiving acupunture . To then receive mockery from their partners who point out that delivering a baby is a pain no man could endure. We forget here the contribution of emotional centres and a long expected baby can produce feeling of comfort during the delivery process.
Pain indeed is relative . Professor Lorimer Moseley is an Australian lecturer in pain he recounts a time when he was bitten by a snake in the bush and the extreme pain experienced , at a later time whilst walking in the bush he stepped on a broken twig assumed it was a snake and automatically felt the same pain !!Great guy he even answered an email from one of my very worried and suffering clients about the nature of her pain . His CD and Book ‘Explain Pain ‘ is highly recommended and entertaining.
Pain can be distracted by thinking about something else or losing any ‘fear attached to it but also by making our own chemical painkillers . Exercise , relaxation , enjoyable activity all produce painkillers that meet pain signals on the road and block them ( close the gate ) – this is the basics of the Gate theory of pain control. The gate may also be closed through use of TENS machines which produce a competing signal/stimulus or certain therapies like acupuncture. Some of the ways of achieving control are as follows:
Distraction by having things to do and planning ahead
Distraction using specific distraction techniques
Pacing yourself in your activities using time rather than pain as a prompt to rest or change position
finding things to do which give you a sense of pleasure and achievment
Managing your mood by challenging negative thoughts
Resolving relationship difficulties
Being assertive and clear with others about your needs
(nabd.org.uk – Your Stories)
It is clear that our maurauding zombies cannot feel pain in the same way as they did because of the lack of contribution from the brain however given they have animated motion some reflexes may be possible within the spinal cord which would be a kind of expression to painful stimuli – especially that of a samurai sword or sawn off shotgun – just may be .
Dr Steven C Sscholzman assistant Professor of Psychiatry developed his nervous system lecture on the zombie brain and thus quoting from him is highly appropriate and informative:
‘First of all the frontal lobe is explained. This region of the brain is involved in executive function, of course if someone is dead there is’nt much ‘functioning ‘ going on. However the ability to hear and sense prey is still present as well as the ability to act on impulse instead of thinking it through. The amygdyla and anterior cingulate cortex are used by a zombie, mostly for the use of emotions since the frontal lobe lacks major function. A zombie is mainly driven by rage, which is notably associated with the amygdyala (as in crocodiles). The anterior cingulate cortex used to even emotions caused by the amygdyla out ; a zombie would have a damaged anterior cingulate cortex , rendering it unable to moderate anger resulting in hyper-agressive behaviour. The cerebellum and basal ganglia are used in motor skills , such as running or jumping. Zombies clearly have damage
to these two parts of the brain. Ataxia , cerebellar degeneration, symptoms mimic the gait of the living dead for example. last, the venrtomedial hypothalamus is the area of the brain that tells us when weve eaten too much. For zombies , that NEVER applies. They keep eating and eating no matter how many people theyre consumed. Therefore , one coul;d assume that a zombies ventromedial hypothalamus is definately damaged leading to hyperpagia , opr never being full.
Thank you Dr Steven Scholzman for a wonderul contibution ,its a great way to learn about the brain but how do you know so much ? Are you locked in some secret bunker preparing a ‘prion’ (A PRION IS AN INFECTIOUS AGENT WHERE THE PROTEIN ALONE IS THE INFECTIOUS AGENT – MAD COW DISEASE WAS SUCH A DISEASE)
Prion diseases are characterised by loss of motor control, dementia, [paralysis wasting and eventually death – maybe a potential zombie disease passed on through meat ingestion , the survivors being vegetarian and Vegan – the plot thickens!!
So it seems there are possible routes for pain but ist just the word ‘FEEL’ I guess regular zombies just dont ‘FEEL’.