Studying The Undead
Exclusive interview with Yale Psychologist Dr. Maria Perez
By Field reporter - Ruth Ellis Haworth
Dr Maria Perez, who heads the American Reanimate Behavioral Research
Unit (ARBRU) in New Haven, Connecticut, spoke to Zombie World News about
her research to date and her plans for the future. She provides some
startling insights into what motivates the undead.
do you study the undead?
problem with studying reanimates is the extreme danger involved in getting
close to them. In a major outbreak of necro-mortosis we have seen dozens
or even hundreds of reanimates roaming in groups. They are simply too
dangerous for researchers to approach. We have some subjects in isolation
abroad. But the 'life-span' of an undead is only two to three months.
Also, consider that outbreaks occur all around the globe, often in isolated
spots. We have partially solved this problem by using satellite imagery
provided by NASA. It is a crude tool, but we can learn quite a lot of
basic behavior from a satellite photograph.
do the photographs show?
photographs consistently show that the reanimates have a natural instinct
to group together. 'Herding' as we call it. This behavior seems to support
the theory that they have limited but viable vision and hearing. Other
than the herding instinct we have observed only one motivation, and
that is to bite the living.
do they bite?
is the focus of our upcoming research. At this point we have one predominant
theory. UCLA Professor David Whister recently released a paper
in the Scientific Journal of Medicine. It rocked the science and
medical worlds, as well as creating a firestorm with ethical
questions raised. But ethics aside, most scientists, myself included,
ally ourselves with the study's main conclusion, that is that the host's
brain is 'tricked' into believing it has died. The parasite blocks all
nutrients, stimulation and thoughts to the brain, in simple terms, it
'zombifies' them. The host is allowed one basic motor function, that
of mobility to seek nutritional sustenance for the parasite in a form
that can only be found in warm blood and flesh. This is why rigor mortis
does not set completely in.
else have you learned about the undead?
reanimate can walk, we have made the working assumption that part of
their brain is still active. In particular, there must be activity in
the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls basic motor function.
My own research is based on the hypothesis that the primal brain that
controls basic instincts is not only functioning in reanimates but is
dominant, unlike in the brain of the living human. I have many peers
who will take issue with that statement, but this is ongoing research
in a very nascent area.
is true, then the behavior of our evolutionary ancestors may be the
key to understanding reanimates. Early mammalian instincts are largely
about procreating and nurturing offspring. Reptilian instincts are much
more aggressive and focused on survival.
there any way to test this theory?
ARBRU and NASA have formed a working committee to design tools to further
this research. There are two stages to the project.
have developed the RROD. The Remote Reanimate Observation Device. We
have tested prototype RRODs and are scheduled to begin our research
in the field later this year.
do RROD's work?
MP: We do
not want our research devices to be tampered with, so we are not releasing
details of their construction. However, I can say that RROD's are housed
in small radio controlled vehicles, similar to the robotic ones used
in bomb disposal actually. They can be released into an area of necro-mortosis
outbreak. The RROD's maneuver very close to the reanimates and transmit
audio-visual feeds back to a satellite. In this way we can acquire much
better photographs, including color, motion, and sound; and taken from
a variety of angles.
are currently designing the RROD2 the next phase in our research. The
RROD2 is a similar mobile device but with added functionality. It will
be able to measure electromagnetic currents from the reanimates so that
we can determine exactly which parts of their central nervous systems
are active, and to what degree. Using RROD2, I hope to understand how
much brain activity there is and in what part.
will also be able to emit some basic sound waves at different frequencies.
We need to understand how much the reanimate can hear. Secondly, we
want to measure brain activity in reaction to a variety of sounds. The ultimate goal of reanimate research is to learn to control, or at
least modify, reanimate behavior, but so far we have no data that suggests
we will be able to do that. However our research is really just starting.
Perhaps we will discover how to calm the reanimates or at least distract
them from destructive behavior.
can't these studies be done in a clinical setting, with captured reanimates?
law, and our ethical code, prevent that. Countries that are affected
by necro-mortosis outbreaks have focused on the humane disposal of infected
individuals. Don't forget that any of us could be infected, or our loved
ones. In addition, we in North America simply do not have access to
than behavioral research, what are other scientists doing to understand
is a huge commitment in the scientific community to understanding this
plague. American and German geneticists are working on an anti-viral
drug called inhibitor XL-6 which shows some early promise. Scientists at Harvard are experimenting
with infected tissue to find disinfectants that can help victims of
exposure from contracting the disease. Last month's edition of the Scientific
Journal of Medicine had a fascinating article about an Haitian women
who seem to have some resistance to the effects of necro-mortosis; their
blood is being used in an effort to develop a vaccine that is code-named
have been very generous with your time, Dr. Perez, and on behalf of
all ZWN readers I want to thank you for sharing your insights with us
are very welcome.
official medical report released by the Center for Disease Control states
that the life cycle of a typical reanimate is up to 90 days. Then
generally atrophy, rigor mortis and decay become too debilitating even
for a re animator. They simply loose the means to move. They still retain
basic motor skills and a pavlovian response to stimulation, but the body
as a vehicle for the brain, gives out. Once the body has stopped functioning,
the brain will deteriorate rapidly. It will 're die' within a matter of
Unlike popular movie depictions, a severed appendage of an undead will
not function independently of the brain. The brain is the motor organ.
It serves as the sole stimuli for the body and is always the last organ
Since the necro-mortosis virus was first identified back in 2006 it has become increasingly apparent , that the 'life span' of the walking deceased changes with its environment.
Read the commissioned report here