We previously touched on sensory perception in the undead (see: Neuropathy Can’t Explain Zombies), but  ZRS Researcher, Parker Heath, recently took a closer look at the body’s nervous system to see what similarities and difference are likely present between humans and zombies.

Although the nervous system is often thought of as a single unit, it’s actually broken down into three distinct subdivisions: 1) central, 2) peripheral, and 3) autonomic.  The central nervous system is the coordinating system of the body, and is made up of the brain and spinal cord.  The peripheral nervous system control the movement of muscles in the limbs.  And the autonomic nervous system oversees basic functions, such as body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.

“It’s widely accepted that zombies are driven by their brains, so the central nervous system must be functioning.  And for movement to be possible at all, the peripheral system is also needed.  But in zombies it appears that the autonomic system may be down.”

Heath argues that in the absence of a beating heart, body temperature control, and regular breathing, the main functions of the autonomic nervous system are no longer needed in the undead.  Therefore the system is likely disengaged, allowing the zombie’s brain to devote more resources to the needs of the central and peripheral subdivisions.

This would reduce the amount of energy the zombie brain and body needs to function, potentially allowing it to survive longer with less.


  1. Would weapons using high levels of electricity be effective against zombies? It would disrupt and/or destroy their central and peripheral nervous system. My hypothesis is that at the very least it would inhibit their ability to move similar to a taser.

  2. Maybe the autonomic system isn’t fully disengaged and inside of telling the heart to pump blood, it is changed into the brain using it to move the blood around. This would be in conjunction with the theory of the brain pumping the blood through magnetic means.

    The decreased use of the autonomic sub-system would still allow the brain to devote more energy to the other two sub-systems. As the picture shows, the eyes are apparently part of the autonomic sub-system. And since zombies use their eyes when they have them, this is evidence that the autonomic sub-system is atleast partially used still.

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