By Adam Bicksler
Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek are neuroscience professors at Carnegie Mellon University and UC San Diego, respectively. Recently, they hosted an AMA (“ask me anything”) on the popular aggregate website reddit. “Together,” they explain, “we wrote Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep[?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain], a book that tries to use zombies to teach the complexities of neuroscience and science history in an approachable way (while also poking a bit of fun at our field). In our real research we study motor control… and the role that neural oscillations play in shaping neural network communication, spiking activity, and human cognition.” The tongue-in-cheek title is inspired by Philip K. Dick’s fantastic, quintessential novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
While this book is non-fiction, the metaphor of a zombie apocalypse is used to explain in more entertaining terms the processes our brains go through when encountering various scenarios, e.g. fight-or-flight responses, hunger, and speech, etc. Peppered throughout the book are illustrations that demonstrate the authors’ points, tapping into the visual mode of learning, one of the three modalities of learning (the other two being aural and tactile). Such illustrations make the content of the book more accessible and less daunting than a traditional scientific text because who doesn’t look at one of those and emit an involuntary groan (aside from our scientists out there)?
Personally, I enjoyed this book very much. I was an avid fan of my high school science classes and had math not been a pre-requisite for any interesting college science courses, I would have continued that course of study. But, since I’m terrible at math, I sadly left that behind and entered the world of literature. This book doesn’t require any special know-how, a quality which I, and I’m sure many others, appreciate.
This book is a great addition to anyone’s zombie collection and for those just curious about the brain’s functioning in general. It offers engaging chapters and informative illustrations that offer easy accessibility to the book’s otherwise complex material. I encourage anyone who is a fan of zombies to pick this book up.
You can do so HERE.
A link to the reddit AMA can be found HERE.