First interview with a dead man
2013 05 23

By Helen Thomson | NewScientist



Name: Graham
Condition: Cotardís syndrome

"When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets werenít going to do me any good ícause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didnít need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death."

Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead.
He was in the grip of Cotardís syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.

For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath.

Eight months later, he told his doctor his brain had died or was, at best, missing. "Itís really hard to explain," he says. "I just felt like my brain didnít exist anymore. I kept on telling the doctors that the tablets werenít going to do me any good because I didnít have a brain. Iíd fried it in the bath."

Doctors found trying to rationalise with Graham was impossible. Even as he sat there talking, breathing Ė living Ė he could not accept that his brain was alive. "I just got annoyed. I didnít know how I could speak or do anything with no brain, but as far as I was concerned I hadnít got one."

Baffled, they eventually put him in touch with neurologists Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter, UK, and Steven Laureys at the University of LiŤge in Belgium.

"Itís the first and only time my secretary has said to me: íItís really important for you to come and speak to this patient because heís telling me heís dead,í" says Laureys.

Limbo state

"He was a really unusual patient," says Zeman. Grahamís belief "was a metaphor for how he felt about the world Ė his experiences no longer moved him. He felt he was in a limbo state caught between life and death".

No one knows how common Cotardís syndrome may be. A study published in 1995 of 349 elderly psychiatric patients in Hong Kong found two with symptoms resembling Cotardís (General Hospital Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1016/0163-8343(94)00066-M). But with successful and quick treatments for mental states such as depression Ė the condition from which Cotardís appears to arise most often Ė readily available, researchers suspect the syndrome is exceptionally rare today. Most academic work on the syndrome is limited to single case studies like Graham.

Some people with Cotardís have reportedly died of starvation, believing they no longer needed to eat. Others have attempted to get rid of their body using acid, which they saw as the only way they could free themselves of being the "walking dead".

Grahamís brother and carers made sure he ate, and looked after him. But it was a joyless existence. "I didnít want to face people. There was no point," he says, "I didnít feel pleasure in anything. I used to idolise my car, but I didnít go near it. All the things I was interested in went away."


Visiting a graveyard was "the closest I could get to death", Graham says

Even the cigarettes he used to relish no longer gave him a hit. "I lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. There was no point in eating because I was dead. It was a waste of time speaking as I never had anything to say. I didnít even really have any thoughts. Everything was meaningless."

Low metabolism

A peek inside Grahamís brain provided Zeman and Laureys with some explanation. They used positron emission tomography to monitor metabolism across his brain. It was the first PET scan ever taken of a person with Cotardís (Cortex, DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.03.003).

What they found was shocking: metabolic activity across large areas of the frontal and parietal brain regions was so low that it resembled that of someone in a vegetative state.

[...]

Read the full article at: newscientist.com



Related Articles
The world that only formerly-blind people can see
Brain Development Is Guided by Junk DNA that Isnít Really Junk
Stanford team creates transparent brain
Obama launches research initiative to study human brain
University creates first wireless, implanted brain-computer interface
Fractal Minds and the Sacred Cosmology : Neuroscience & Psychology meets Esoteric Religion
Breaking Out of the Prisons of the Mind


Latest News from our Front Page

Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece ďa3maq newsĒ, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
STAGED INFECTION: Has The Ebola ĎOutbreakí Narrative Fallen Apart?
2014 10 22
Over the past month, the Ďpandemicí propaganda surrounding the deadly Ebola virus seemed to reach vitriolic levels Ė raising serious questions about the validity of this current viral outbreakÖ On Monday of this week, it was reported that 48 people were released and cleared after a 21-day quarantine due to their contact with the now deceased Ebola-stricken patient Thomas Eric ...
6,000-Year-Old Temple with Possible Sacrificial Altars Discovered
2014 10 21
A 6,000-year-old temple holding humanlike figurines and sacrificed animal remains has been discovered within a massive prehistoric settlement in Ukraine. Built before writing was invented, the temple is about 60 by 20 meters (197 by 66 feet) in size. It was a "two-story building made of wood and clay surrounded by a galleried courtyard," the upper floor divided into five ...
What happened to Journalist Serena Shim? Assassinated? Find out what happened to Serena, Press TV director calls on Turkey
2014 10 21
Press TV news director Hamid Reza Emadi says the ďsuspicious death,Ē of the news channelís correspondent in Turkey is a tragedy for ďanyone who wants to get the truth.Ē Emadi made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Sunday following Serena Shimís death across the border from Syriaís Kurdish city of Kobani, where the ISIL terrorists and Kurdish fighters ...
Ancient Roman Nanotechnology Inspires Next-Generation Holograms for Information Storage
2014 10 21
The Lycurgus Cup, as it is known due to its depiction of a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman chalice that changes colour depending on the direction of the light upon it. It baffled scientists ever since the glass chalice was acquired by the British Museum in the 1950s, as they could not work ...
More News Ľ