The Zombie Research Society defines the modern zombie as a relentlessly aggressive human corpse reanimated by a biological infection. However, this concept seems to ignore one of the defining traits of the living dead; their violent, insatiable hunger for human flesh. We assume this behavior is primarily a result of some instinctual drive to infect others with the virus. But what medical condition could cause such an excessive hunger or explain their actions?
Recent research regarding Prader–Willi syndrome and polyphagia, also commonly known as hyperphagia, may present an answer. When the hypothalamus is compromised either by disease or injury it can often result in a very morbid hunger, persistent hyperphagia, and aggression as described in this study by the National Centre for Brain Injury Rehabilitation:
The findings confirmed that hyperphagia or morbid hunger posed potentially life-threatening health risks to the patient, primarily around weight control and fluid balance, and risks of aggression towards professional and family carers. Pharmacological or behaviour modification interventions were only partially successful in management of this presentation.
Morbid hunger and aggression are intrinsically linked to a zombie’s “need to feed” regardless of motivation. Perhaps the insatiable hunger of the undead is simply a mechanism for them to spread their deadly virus among the populace. But the source of such a disorder is almost assuredly a malfunction in the hypothalamus. Whether that malfunction is the result of a virus or genetic disorder like Prader–Willi or Bardet–Biedl syndrome; we may never know!
Zombies are obviously driven to attack, bite, or even consume their victims. Their relentlessly aggressive nature is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of zombie research. And we promise to continue exploring all possibilities for their behavior in the hopes that we can eventually provide answers that will save humanity during the inevitable zombie apocalypse!
In the meantime, we suggest that you read “Persistent hyperphagia in acquired brain injury; an observational case study of patients receiving inpatient rehabilitation” published online by PubMed, or “Novel therapy for Prader-Willi syndrome advances to Phase III trial” by Healio for additional information on hyperphagia – because what you don’t know can eat you!