Science Book a Day Interviews Bradley Voytek


Special thanks to Bradley Voytek for answering 5 questions about the book he co-authored, which was recently featured – Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain

In my professional life, I am an Assistant Professor of Computational Cognitive Science and Neuroscience at UC San Diego. I love my job and, although it’s not who I am, it is a serious part of my life. But I also like to play around with it (which is partly how I came to be one of the world’s zombie brain experts). – From Bradley’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?

My coauthor, Tim Verstynen, and I both discovered during grad school our mutual love of zombie films. And it turns out when you get neuroscientists together, drinking beers and watching zombie movies, they start deconstructing zombie behaviors and trying to figure out what their brains must look like to cause them to behave the way they do.

#2 – What is it that makes Zombies the perfect way to get into ideas about neuroscience?

Zombies have clear, stereotyped behaviors everyone’s familiar with: slow, lumbering walk; no speech; no higher-level thinking; no delicate motor control; aggressive; etc. For each of these behaviors, we know a great deal about their neural origins–that is, how the brain gives rise to them. This makes it very easy to connect the ideas that there are links between the brain and behavior for people who normally don’t think about this.

#3 – Who have you written this book for? Zombie-enthusiasts? Teachers? Kids?

It’s aimed at smart high-school students and college students interested in neuroscience. Obviously the book contains a lot about zombies, but if you’re just a zombie fan, and not also a science fan, you’re probably not going to really enjoy this book.

#4 – The book sounds like it was a lot of fun to write. What did your zombie research consist of for this book? Did you have to watch all the zombie films ever made?

It was a lot of fun! Obviously there were some hard parts, but it’s hard to complain about having a good excuse to watch a lot of zombie films and read zombie books and comics. Neither Tim nor I consumed all zombie media, but between the two of us we watched a huge percentage of it.

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

Other than my ongoing real neuroscience research projects, I don’t have any solid new or exciting projects to talk about, though I still do a lot of public outreach and speaking. Tim does a science podcast called Axons and Axioms that’s super interesting.

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