11 November 2011

EEG Testing May Provide Quick Test for Zombie Status

Conventional wisdom holds that either a person is a zombie, or he is not. But that is not necessarily the case. There are gradients of zombiehood and states of relative transition. We need to develop the tools of detecting whether we are dealing with a normal brain, and if not, whether the transition has passed beyond a point of no return. Here is more on a type of technology which might be considered, to help us make these determinations:
In the study, researchers examined 16 zombies—and 12 healthy people, asking both groups to imagine moving either their hands or toes while wearing an EEG monitor. They found that, like the healthy people, three of the zombies could reliably generate two distinct brain activity patterns based on the command. One zombie did it more than 200 times, which is even more than the healthy participants managed. _TechnologyReview
This is a potentially serious and growing problem, which will require much ingenuity to deal with. Here's more:
Owen and his team used an EEG on 16 people thought to be zombies and compared the results with 12 healthy controls while they were asked to imagine performing a series of tasks.

Each person was asked to imagine at least four separate actions – either clenching their right fist or wiggling their toes.

In three of the "zombies", brain regions known to be associated with those tasks lit up with activity.... This suggested to the researchers that the zombies were carrying out a complex set of cognitive functions including hearing the command, understanding language, sustaining attention and tapping into working memory....

"The diagnostic criteria for zombies have to change," he adds. The official diagnosis for zombie was formulated in the 1970s, before neuro-imaging was widely used, says Owen. The last update was made in 1995, but the criteria for declaring someone conscious is still based on whether an outside observer believes the patient is trying to communicate. _NewScientist

The scientists studying the issue above appear to feel empathetic toward their zombie subjects, but we all know that zombies must be put down as soon as they are identified -- no exceptions. But the experiment points out the fact that in order to prevent the stealth infiltration of society by borderline zombies -- still early in the transition -- it will be necessary to use more advanced tools than simple eyesight and subjective judgment.

Full disclosure and clarification postscript: The preceding article is a piece of plagiaristic satire. The links are real but subtle editing of the content has taken place. The original articles are worth reading for their original meaning.

Persons with medical training, such as many of the Al Fin writing staff, often acquire a darkly comedic sense of humour, which becomes integrated into many aspects of their daily lives -- much to the distress of many who come in contact with them. Allow me to apologise for this aspect of many of the Al Fin writers' style at this time.

Brain injuries and degenerative brain disease are tragic states, and those who suffer from these conditions should be treated with dignity and respect. No disrespect to actual victims of these conditions is intended.

Zombies are useful metaphors to help us to view many of our automatic judgments in a more conscious way. Most of our lives are lived as in a trance, performing automatised actions and trusting subconscious assumptions implicitly. In other words, we often behave as if we ourselves were zombies. That is what makes the entire popular zombie phenomenon so amusing, yet also poignant.

Humans have a lot of growing up to do. But let's try to keep a sense of humour while doing so.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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