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Interview With A Zombie
He was in the grip of Cotard's syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.
For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath.
Eight months later, he told his doctor his brain had died or was, at best, missing. "It's really hard to explain," he says. "I just felt like my brain didn't exist any more. I kept on telling the doctors that the tablets weren't going to do me any good because I didn't have a brain. I'd fried it in the bath."
Doctors found trying to rationalise with Graham was impossible. Even as he sat there talking, breathing – living – he could not accept that his brain was alive. "I just got annoyed. I didn't know how I could speak or do anything with no brain, but as far as I was concerned I hadn't got one."
Baffled, they eventually put him in touch with neurologists Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter, UK, and Steven Laureys at the University of Liège in Belgium.
"It's the first and only time my secretary has said to me: 'It's really important for you to come and speak to this patient because he's telling me he's dead,'" says Laureys.
Some people with Cotard's have reportedly died of starvation, believing they no longer needed to eat. Others have attempted to get rid of their body using acid, which they saw as the only way they could free themselves of being the "walking dead".
Graham's brother and carers made sure he ate, and looked after him. But it was a joyless existence. "I didn't want to face people. There was no point," he says, "I didn't feel pleasure in anything. I used to idolise my car, but I didn't go near it. All the things I was interested in went away."
Even the cigarettes he used to relish no longer gave him a hit. "I lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. There was no point in eating because I was dead. It was a waste of time speaking as I never had anything to say. I didn't even really have any thoughts. Everything was meaningless."
Some of these areas form part of what is known as the "default mode network" – a complex system of activity thought to be vital to core consciousness, and our theory of mind. This network is responsible for our ability to recollect the past, to think about ourselves, to create a sense of self and it allows us to realise that we are the agent responsible for an action.
"I've been analysing PET scans for 15 years and I've never seen anyone who was on his feet, who was interacting with people, with such an abnormal scan result," says Laureys. "Graham's brain function resembles that of someone during anaesthesia or sleep. Seeing this pattern in someone who is awake is quite unique to my knowledge."
Graham's scans could have been affected by the antidepressants he was taking and, as Zeman points out, it is unwise to draw too many conclusions from scans from a single person. But, Zeman says, "It seems plausible that the reduced metabolism was giving him this altered experience of the world, and affecting his ability to reason about it."
"There's many things we don't know about how to define consciousness," says Laureys. At the very least, unusual cases such as Graham's add to our understanding of how the brain creates the perception of self and how it can be impaired.
For Graham, the brain scans didn't mean a lot. "I just felt really damn low," he says. By this time, his teeth had turned black because he could no longer be bothered to brush them, compounding his belief that he was dead.
Graham says he didn't really have any thoughts about his future during that time. "I had no other option other than to accept the fact that I had no way to actually die. It was a nightmare."
This feeling prompted him on occasion to visit the local graveyard. "I just felt I might as well stay there. It was the closest I could get to death. The police would come and get me, though, and take me back home."
There were some unexplained consequences of the disorder. Graham says he used to have "nice hairy legs". But after he got Cotard's, all the hairs fell out. "I looked like a plucked chicken! Saves shaving them I suppose…"
It's nice to hear him joke. Over time, and with a lot of psychotherapy and drug treatment, Graham has gradually improved and is no longer in the grip of the disorder. He is now able to live independently. "His Cotard's has ebbed away and his capacity to take pleasure in life has returned," says Zeman.
"I couldn't say I'm really back to normal, but I feel a lot better now and go out and do things around the house," says Graham. "I don't feel that brain-dead any more. Things just feel a bit bizarre sometimes." And has the experience changed his feeling about death? "I'm not afraid of death," he says. "But that's not to do with what happened – we're all going to die sometime. I'm just lucky to be alive now."
||President Obama announced the awarding of $5 billion in grants for research into cures ranging from necro-mortosis, cancer, heart diseases, and autism among other diseases.
Obamacare and necro-mortosis
Pharmaceutical giant Amcalon states
Recent 'Body Trauma' report could change tactics
How the virus works - The challenge ahead
Highlights of the recently released WHA report.
Upon infection, the exposed usually succumbs to reanimation within 4 - 48 hours. First stage symptoms feel like flu. Migraine, hot flushes, aching muscles.
Second stage is followed by severe chills, extreme lethargy, some disorientation, a gradual slowing of the heart rate. early onset dementia, extreme pain in their joints and muscle cramping. At this point, many fall into coma or suffer stroke or heart failure. This is due to the massive shock to the bodies immune system. Necrosis and mortification follow shortly afterwards.
Reanimation can occur within minutes. Studied subjects have nearly always reanimated within the first hour of death.
Source: World health Authority report
Necro-Mortosis (corpse/dead), also known by the names Mortuus Ambulare" (walking dead) and "Corpus Vigere" (active/awake corpse)
We do know
that the 'Necro-Virus' (Necro Mortosis) was first discovered in the
West Indies - Haiti in 2006
Three predominant theories suggest it's origin
(Vodou). Considering the source of the outbreak is Haiti, this first
theory is expected. However, no scientific facts support this theory
or give it any credibility.
Facts about necro-mortosis
The different levels of a mortosis outbreak:
Mortosis outbreaks can be separated into three categories, depending on how easily they can can spread and the severity of death they cause. Category A outbreaks are considered the highest risk and Category C outbreaks are those that are considered emerging threats or easily containable.
Category Level 'A'
These high-priority outbreaks pose the highest risk to the public and national security because: They can be easily spread or transmitted from person to person
They result in high death rates and have the potential for major public health impact
They might cause public panic and social disruption
They require special action for public health preparedness.
Category Level 'B'
These outbreaks are the second highest priority because: They are moderately easy to spread
They result in a moderate rate of death and/or low death rates
They require specific enhancements of Center for Disease Control's laboratory capacity and enhanced disease monitoring.
Category Level 'C'
These third highest priority outbreaks include emerging threats that could be spread in the future because: They are easily transferable
They have potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact. Source: CDC - Center for Disease Control and Prevention