One of the defining features of the modern zombie is their relentlessly aggressive nature. This is often depicted as an insatiable craving for human flesh. But what could possibly trigger such a cannibalistic trait in the recently deceased? A new study reveals that the undead “need to feed” may be nothing more than a postmortem addiction.
Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna’s Department of Forensic Medicine have discovered evidence that addictive cravings in the human brain persist even after death. The Austrian scientists found that a protein in the reward center of the brain, known as FosB, is often altered in heroin addicts and drug abusers. And that this newly modified protein (DeltaFosB) continues to linger, even in the brains of long deceased patients; suggesting that their lethal cravings continue well after they have died.
Although the mutation of the protein can be identified more than a week after death, researchers believe the period is much longer in the living who are trying to recover – and it can last for months.
Due to a constant supply of drugs, such as heroin, FosB turns into DeltaFosB, which is increasingly stimulated in cases of chronic use and even influences growth factors and structural changes (neuronal plasticity) in the brain – approximately in the region where memory is formed.
But the resulting changes aren’t limited to elicit drugs; the study also cites exposure to a range of stimuli including opioids, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants… even stress. Could your own craving for caffeine, sugar, or nicotine manifest itself as a ravenous hunger for human flesh during the zombie apocalypse? Perhaps the insatiable appetite of the living dead are merely a twisted expression of our current addictions.
If proteins such as DeltaFosB can alter our brains, dictate our needs, and drive our addictions even after death; how would the newly undead cope with such a demand once they’ve risen from the grave? Even our simplest desires to eat, drink, or breath could find themselves subject to the perverted whims of our newly altered, zombie brains.
For more information on the the addictive cravings of the undead brain, please read the original study published online at the Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, or check out this incredibly informative article by author Stacy Liberatore for the Daily Mail.