There is a theory of Zombie lifespan projection that has been gaining popularity in certain research circles of late.  It submits that even as decomposition has liquefied Zombie Brain Illustrationmost of the Zombie brain, it can continue to power the Zombie body by keeping the brain stem alive (somehow).  Canada’s McGill University’s online resource, The Brain From Top To Bottom, offers a clear breakdown of the human brain’s control over motor function, which – in my opinion – debunks this theory.

McGill explains that even basic movements – walking, looking around, grabbing – require complimentary actions taken by the brain as a whole.  It’s akin to a ship’s crew:

“The forward portion of the frontal lobe receives information about the individual’s current position from several other parts, then – like the ship’s captain – issues its commands to Area 6.  Area 6 then decides which set of muscles to contract  to achieve the required movement, and issues corresponding orders to the primary motor cortex, also known as Area 4.”

In short, it’s beyond debate that the human brain is far too complex, and the human body too large, to function with only a fraction of its synapses firing.  Theories based on reptile studies, and brain stem speculation don’t hold water in the face of cold, hard facts.

A Zombie lives as long as its brain – as a whole – is functioning in at least a deminished capacity, and not one second longer.


  1. I’ve actually studied that as far as people being resuscitated, then human brain can sustain without oxygen for an approximated 5-10 minutes repectively before it begins to suffer major damage. even then, a human who is brought back to life is said to suffer from things such as losing speech, memory loss, random paralysis..

    There are even cases where someone whas dead fr up to 20, 30, 40 minutes, and in 2007, a man in Iowa was pronounced medically dead for 2 and a half hours and was resuscitated.

    And like it has already been said, we’re not dealing with graveyard bodies from hundreds of years of decomposition, were dealing with near-dead. And if a zombie-virus did somehow come about and force the body to create its own adrenaline, its very possible that the disease could reanimate a corpse, and its previous functions and thoughts could be processed through the new, re-animated mind. The body restaalizing and ‘turning back on’ would keep flesh, and mind from decaying, because it would technically be ‘re-animated.’

    This could also lead to the thought that, if the infection didn’t settle in quick enough, the body may be long deaad before the infection had a chance to reincarnate. Or, maybe not everyone who had it would return, such as people dying of old age, there body wouldnt be able to withstain, and would remain dead.

    Also, If the body were releasing a chemical such as adrenaline it would keep the blood flow going (blood flow theory), keep them awake 24/7 (i.e. george romero’s zombies, always attentive), and would explain the ‘barbaric’, simplistic, eat to survive behavior.

    This is all just me ranting though.. let me know what you think on my theory..

  2. The brain is still much of a mystery. the two hemispheres are still vastly uncharted in their potential.

    we have all seen and heard the stories of the guy or girl who comes into the hospital with a steal rod straight through their head. they remove the rod, and the person goes on to live a happy normal life.

    They put plates in our brains, drill holes in our head and hook our noggins up to live wires. the brain can endure a lot of damage. but the damage of necrotic decomp to the brain does present a problem for the life span of a zombie… unless

  3. I’ve learned in my paramedic class that there has been proof of people having parts of their brain damaged and/or dead and they can still do everyday things after being taught again. The brain has ways of relearning things and using other parts of the brain to now control what used to be controlled by the now dead portion. The only problem I see with this is that zombies are not trained in anything or re-educated on how to walk or eat.

    • How do children learn to walk? I think walking might be instinctual, or more specifically, to move is instinct.

    • only the recent dead will return to life. keep that in mind. decomp has destroyed any possibility of re-animating body and brain past a few days. the damage of decay is far past re-animation. this also includes the embalmed dead.

      when a fresh zombie returns to life, all but a shadow of his previous life as a human remains. he may entertain notions and activities which surrounded his previous life, but in a limited way. if they were gas station attendants, they may shuffle around a gas station or stumble around the pumps. if they were Micheal Jackson or a Catholic priest, they may only go after small boys.

      the one thing you must understand about a zombie, is that in the early stages of living death, they are much like a child. or a heart attack patient relearning how to speak, write, even walk. zombies are no different. they will throw tantrums, communicate through primal gesturing, and like a baby, speak through grunts and groans. their only concerns are greedy, and self satiating. during these early stages, the zombie can learn what it can. what ever there is to learn. not many tutors for zombies these days. that’s why most zombies will be stupid. but whose to say, with the proper teaching, zombies might learn to speak, even reason, and master its own motor functions. surely this will not be the case with all zombies, not all zombies would be smart, or even have the ability to learn. brain and body re-animation occurs differently within each zombie. re-animation is an unpredictable thing.

      like an orphaned child dropped into a waste zone. scavenging for food, and without any guidance, is the best way to describe a zombie. ok a child that eats your face, and i suppose education wouldn’t do anything to curb its appetite earthier.

      • Hi Miller-

        Good observations, but where do you get all of your information? We have a policy at ZRS of trying not to declare “facts” about zombies, but rather put forward theories. The problem with being too sure of yourself is that, if you’re wrong it could spell certain death.

        Example: If zombies don’t act like children when they are first reanimated, and you’re zombie survival strategy is based on this incorrect assumption, then your plan probably isn’t worth much.

        But you do put forth some interesting theories that are well worth further discussion.

  4. Kid seems to have lost his right hemisphere – half his brain – and went on to be highly functional, even graduating from college. Dunno if I buy that we need that large of a portion after death to reanimate!


  5. This is a good theory. I’ve heard of one though that says a zombie will function for about 3-5 years.

    A zombie is still a decomposing corpse, but the decomposition is slowed. I think that a zombie will function for a few years, depending on its global location. After all, destroying the brain will kill the host, but if the host loses the ability to hold the brain, it will die as well.

  6. cockamamielibrarian

    Great! Love your blog…

  7. That’s excellent research. You got me reworking my zombie theories. Thanks for the correction.

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