Almost as controversial as the fast vs. slow zombie debate is whether the undead retain any memory of their former lives. From Day of the Dead to Warm Bodies, many popular films address the dormant humanity of the living dead. But researchers studying the West Nile virus have recently discovered that such infections can actually lead to severe memory loss.
It was previously believed that a virus like West Nile simply killed off neurons in the brain. However Bette K. DeMasters, head of neuropathology at CU Anschutz, has co-authored a new study that reveals the true cause of this rare but destructive phenomenon.
“What we found in mice, and later confirmed in humans, is that it’s not the death of cells that causes memory loss, it’s the loss of nerve cell connections,” said study co-author Kenneth Tyler, MD, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “The viral infection activates microglial cells and complement pathways which are helping to fight the infection but in turn end up destroying synapses.”
It appears that patients afflicted with the most severe viral infections often go on to develop irritability and a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. This certainly sounds like the early symptoms of any zombie virus or outbreak. And missing or damaged synapses in the brain may explain why the undead seemingly have no memory of their previous lives.
Of course this discovery also opens up the opportunity to test brand new therapies and medications for treating this devastating condition! So be sure to check out the original article online from Medical Xpress or read the actual study itself, as published by the scientific journal Nature, for more even details.