Skepchick Book Club: Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
Note: next month’s book is at the end of this post
Welcome back to the Skepchick Book Club! This month, we read Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific Look at the Zombie Brain. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I picked this book, I was curious as to how the authors would relate neuroscience to zombies, but they pulled it off pretty well.
What exactly makes a zombie? What are some common behaviors of a zombie? There’s the distinctive movement (whether it’s a stiff lumber or a crazed dash), the single-minded attentiveness to eat brains, the fact that zombies don’t recognize anyone from their previous life. All of these traits can be linked to different parts of the brain and sometimes different neurological conditions (such as face blindness).
Without the zombies, this book is a good primer on neuroscience and what the different parts of the brain (e.g. cerebellum, hypothalamus, neocortex, etc.) actually do.
Parts of the book that I enjoyed include:
- The section on the history of zombis in the Vodou religion in Haiti
- The many references to zombies in pop culture, and how those relate to various neurological events
- The random story about the scientist in the 1800’s who was trying to study the effects of hormones by injecting himself with a mixture of testicular blood, semen, and the “juice” from a squeezed testicle (ouch)
- How the authors managed to break down things that we think of as simple into complex neurological processes
- The part at the end that mentions how parasites can cause some animals to behave in a zombie-like fashion
The message I got from this book is: brains are exceedingly complex and weird, and in fact zombies would have to have a functional brain (even though we’re not sure how exactly blood and oxygen gets to their brain).
For more reading, check out these links:
- A True and Complete Account of the Neuroscience of Zombies (Interview with the authors)
- A book review
- The Human Brain Coloring Book
If you liked the book, or if you just like brains, leave a comment below!
That’s it for now, see you next time!
Next Month’s Book: Merchants of Doubt
I’ll be posting on Sunday, Nov 22nd about Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global. (And it was also made into a documentary if you don’t want to read.)