A man's account of living with Cotard's syndrome offers a chilling look at a rare condition that has patients convinced they're zombies.
The man, identified only as Graham in an interview with New Scientist, said he awoke from a suicide attempt feeling as though his brain were dead.
"I just felt like my brain didn't exist anymore," Graham told the magazine, recalling his bizarre state of consciousness after surviving an attempt to electrocute himself in his bathtub.
Graham was diagnosed with Cotard's syndrome, a mysterious psychiatric condition marked by "the fixed and unshakable belief that one has lost organs, blood or body parts" or has no soul, according to a definition in a 2003 report in the journal Neurology.
"I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn't need to eat, or speak or do anything," Graham told New Scientist. "I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death."
... his desire to lurk in graveyards. "I just felt I might as well stay there. It was the closest I could get to death. The police would come and get me, though, and take me back home."
Graham's recent diagnosis gave doctors an opportunity to look inside the brain of a Cotard's patient.
What they found was extraordinary.
"I've been analyzing PET scans for 15 years, and I've never seen anyone who was on his feet, who was interacting with people, with such an abnormal scan result," Dr. Steven Laureys of the University of Liège in Belgium, who consulted on Graham's case, told New Scientist. "Graham's brain function resembles that of someone during anesthesia or sleep. Seeing this pattern in someone who is awake is quite unique to my knowledge."
So while Graham's brain was intact, his brain activity looked like that of someone in a coma.