Continuing my love affair with zombies this week, I bring to you the strange but medically true story of people who are convinced they have become the living dead. 


As detailed last month, it's known that certain chemical compounds used by Voodoo priests can induce a sort-of zombie dream-like trance — but this is the first time I've heard of a brain disorder that can bring on the perceived transformation.   

Called Cotard delusion, or Walking Corpse syndrome, the condition is a neuropsychiatric disorder brought on by severe depression and/or brain injury.   

According to MSNBC's "The Body Odd", the disorder not only causes people to fail to recognize the faces of people, as well as their own (making them believe they're dead), but it can also bring on strange delusions — like the smell of rotting flesh or the feeling that they are decomposing from the inside out.

From the site: "In a case written about in the journal Psychiatry in 2008, a 53-year-old Filipino woman with Cotard delusion was admitted to a psychiatric unit after she told her family she was dead, smelled of rotting flesh and wanted to be taken to a morgue so she could be with other dead people."

In another case, an Indian woman began telling people that her liver was “putrefying,” and that her stomach was missing. 

Eventually, the symptoms went away after lengthy doses of anti-depressants and/or ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). So for those of you thinking this would be a great way to get out of work for a few days, that last part might convince you otherwise. 

Check out this clip from an episode of "Scrubs" in which a patient has Walking Corpse syndrome. To learn more about the disorder, hit the Wikipedia page here

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

'Walking corpse' syndrome turns people into the living dead
Rare neuropsychiatric disorder responsible for feelings of death and decomposition.