Across time, the Brain & Behavior Blogger has focused on the amazing power of brain functioning and the fascinating aspects of its design and complexity. Ultimately, his interest lies squarely in propagandizing the notion that a deep understanding of the brain can pay huge dividends to managers, trainers, instructional designers, consultants – people across the board.
Where he has dealt with aberrant, especially with severely aberrant, behavior patterns, it has usually been from the perspective of highlighting the evolving discoveries in applied neuroscience that are helping to explain them and potentially eliminate the neurological problems that underlie them. In this week’s entry, however, the B&B Blogger is going to do a “180″ and pay a short visit to the Land of the Truly Bizarre.
First, a brief aside: The premise was interesting, so the Blogger tried to get engaged in “The Walking Dead,” now in it’s second season on TV. However, he came to the conclusion that the apparent focus on shooting zombies, sometimes by the dozen, would work better as a video game. His interest in the show waned fairly quickly.
That has not been the case with the Blogger’s (perhaps unwholesome interest) in a sort-of-related, debilitating neurological disorder he first read about a couple of years ago: Cotard’s Syndrome. People suffering from this disturbance typically believe that they are dead. No joke. Thus, has evolved the alternative name for the phenomenon, Walking Corpse Syndrome.
Strangely, not all sufferers believe that they are no longer alive. Some believe that they don’t exist (or that they never did). Others believe that they are putrefying or that all of their internal organs have disappeared.
You might ask yourself, “Why doesn’t someone just hand them a mirror?” Uh, been tried, no help. When looking in a mirror, those with Cotard’s Syndrome either don’t see any image at all or don’t recognize the image that they see.
Neuroscientists have virtually no understanding of the causes of this problem. The best guess is that there is a major disruption of brain circuitry in two areas of the brain. One is the area that allows us to recognize faces; the other is the area that attaches some emotional response to those faces (once recognized). Perhaps, there is a third problem as well: 1) and 2) are cross-wiring within each of the two aforementioned brain areas and 3) might be that those two areas are unable to communicate with one another as they should.
The tragedy here is that, with so little understanding of the causes, there comes (at this point) zero hope for a cure.
Original references for any studies, books or articles cited by the Brain and Behavior Blogger can be obtained by contact with his very dear friend, Dr. Rob Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org), an organizational psychologist with a severe neuroscience-research-reading addiction.