First interview with a dead man
2013-05-23 0:00

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:

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

German Schoolchildren will Cook and Clean for ‚ÄúRefugees‚ÄĚ as Part of Work Experience
2015-10-13 0:44
Schoolchildren from an undisclosed school in the city of L√ľbeck, Schleswig-Holstein, will spend a week doing housework for so-called ‚Äúrefugees‚ÄĚ. Unknown Object. The idea was sold to parents at a parents‚Äô meeting as a ‚Äúpractical internship‚Äú, but has sparked outrage online. A letter to the parents said their children will be going to ‚Äúrefugee‚ÄĚ accommodations and will be making beds, sorting clothes, and ...
MTV: Saying "No Can Do" Or "Long Time No See" Is Racist
2015-10-12 23:04
Harmless terms have offensive origins, asserts Franchesca Ramsey According to MTV News, using the phrases “long time no see,” “peanut gallery” and “no can do” is offensive because the terms have “racist beginnings.” Host Franchesca Ramsey begins by claiming that the term “peanut gallery” is offensive because it was once the place where black people were “forced” to sit at the theater ...
Migrants Dump Garbage from Their Balconies at German Asylum Center
2015-10-12 23:35
German authorities expect up to 1.5 million asylum seekers to arrive in Germany this year – up from 750,000 last month. So they can expect more of this– Migrants Dump Garbage from their Balconies : Augsburg Asylum Center, Germany In a recent poll, the number of “frightened” Germans jumped from 38% to 51% in three weeks. Muslim Statistics reported, via Religion of Peace: The latest ...
US Paradrops 50 Tons Of Ammo To Syrian Rebels
2015-10-12 22:32
As we noted over the weekend, the US has now thrown in the towel on the ill-fated (and that’s putting it lightly) strategy of training Syrian fighters and sending them into battle only to be captured and killed by other Syrian fighters who the US also trained.  The Pentagon’s effort to recruit 5,400 properly “vetted” anti-ISIS rebels by the end of ...
Migrant Crisis stand-up routine - Sam Hyde
2015-10-10 18:07
YouTube description: "Migrant" "Crisis" AKA Muslim Road Trip. Hundreds of thousands of astronauts, doctors, sciencemen, and peaceful clock inventors descend upon the countries with the most collective guilt and free stuff. This was pretty good man... I wasn't expecting this reaction from the same Boston college audience who so thoroughly disapproved of my 'Mike Brown' routine. I think the invasion of ...
More News »