September 2021 • Volume 15, No. 10

From the Editor

For our annual Halloween Issue, we take a look at the brain science behind some folks’ obsession with scary things, including recreational fear, and what physically happens to us when we’re scared. 

Speaking of scary things, it turns out there’s a lot to “know” about zombies. 

Finally, we offer some Halloween board games and food ideas for your own and your family’s enjoyment. 

Our student in the spotlight is Julie Ashton, BSN, RN, CNOR, from St. Petersburg, FL. And read on for jobs we’ve gathered for you and NIFA’s favorite links.

Hope you have spooky (in a good way) Halloween!


Julie Lancaster, Editor

The Science of Fear

Fear’s Effects on Our Brains, Our Bodies, Our Lives

What happens inside our brain and body when we are scared?  Whether it’s the charge you feel as you plummet down on a roller coaster, the terror of running from a wild animal, the fear of public speaking, or a shocking scene in the Halloween horror movie you’re watching—these all reflect fear, but each one is distinct.

Some fears are a part of our evolutionary instincts, while others give us a sense of excitement, points out an article from the Saskatchewan Science Centre. The article goes on to delve into the portions of the brain that process different aspects of fear and its effects on our bodies and our lives. Read More…

Unreasonable Fears

“At least 60 percent of adults admit to having at least one unreasonable fear, although research to date is not clear on why these fears manifest,” reads an article in Psychology Today. “One theory is that humans have a genetic predisposition to fear things that were a threat to our ancestors, such as snakes, spiders, heights, or water, but this is difficult to verify . . . . Others point to evidence that individuals fear certain things because of a previous traumatic experience with them, but that fails to explain the many fears without such origins.” Read more. . .

Why Do Some People Like to Be Scared?

Thrill-seeking people who thrive in scary situations have a specific sensation-seeking personality trait, writes Kenneth Carter, a clinical psychologist and professor at Oxford College of Emory University in Georgia, in an article on “This trait determines how much we enjoy activities like watching horror movies, climbing the steepest sides of mountains, driving race cars around harrowing, hairpin turns or jumping out of airplanes.” Read more. .

Podcast: Your Brain on Fear

Neuroscientist Anthony Lacagnina, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, takes us inside the brain to understand why some scary experiences give us a thrill while others can traumatize us, and why scary memories are so hard to dislodge. Access Podcast. . .

Zombies and Brains

Zombie Diet: The Flesh

“In any zombie horror story, the undead human corpses roam the world in their hunt for human flesh,” writes Kimberly Hickok, in an article on “Now, we know zombies aren’t real, but human cannibalism is far from fictional. Here are 10 real-life examples of human flesh-eaters that are just about as horrifying as zombies.” Read more…

Zombie Diet: The Brains

“The idea of the walking dead feasting on grey matter is a newer trope than many people realize,” writes Mike Rampton on Apparently this dietary preference was not evident in the early zombie movies but become cemented as a zombie trait in 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead.” Rampton goes on to examine the nutritional content of human brains, their apparently dwindling popularity as a food for living people, and the health risks of eating brains due to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a prion disease like ‘mad cow’ disease, caused by transmissible proteins in the brain mis-folding and affecting nearby proteins. Read more…

Zombie Neuroscience: It’s all About the Braiiiiins

In an educational and entertaining article, Ellie Bennet of the University of Edinburgh unpacks observations from a book written by two neuroscientists, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? The authors, Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek, use neuroscience to explore what would have to go wrong in a human brain to produce a zombie’s lumbering gait, hunger for flesh, aggression, inability to understand language, and penchant for biting.

Board Games

  • Horrified – Classic movie monsters terrorize a town! Can your team stop them in time?
  • Paranormal Detectives – Deduce the circumstances of the recently-deceased ghost with various occult methods!
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf – This is no ordinary game of Werewolf as it lasts only one night. Werewolves beware!
  • Disney Hocus Pocus: The Game – Ruin the witches’ evil potion with a stun, work quickly to win before the rising sun.
  • Mysterium – Become a psychic and divine spectral visions to solve the murder of a restless ghost.

Halloween Food


Student Spotlight: Julie Ashton


Student Status
Current student in NIFA’s RNFA program

City & State
St. Petersburg, FL

Current Position
OR circulator in a woman’s hospital

Where did you get your RN degree?
St. Petersburg College

How did you come to choose perioperative nursing?
I was in the US Army and learned to scrub at Walter Reed Medical center in DC. I fell in love with surgery.

What is the scariest moment you’ve ever seen at the table?
We were doing a simple endometrial ablation that turned into an eight hour open case. The iliac vein got nicked from a uterine perf. Went from D&C to laparoscopy to laparostomy. 15 units RBCs, 3 platelets, and 2 FFPs. Laps were everywhere. Turned out OK.

What is one technique or RNFA trick you’ve learned from NIFA that you will use for life?
How to burr. [Ed. note: “burr” is a term used for the act of drilling a hole in the skull.]

How do you feel having your RNFA will impact your life/career?
It will provide knowledge which I can use to teach my OR staff.

Photo: Julie hiking at Minnehaha Falls, GA

Jobs Front

Click here for the RNFA job postings we’ve collected for you this month.

NIFA – Office Hours

Monday-Thursday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
Friday, 8:00am – 4:00pm

Practice Resources

Here are several of the most-in-demand sites for our students, prospective students and grads:

MD Edge Surgery News: Specialty News and Commentaries, Videos and More
RNFA Scope of Practice by State (PDF)
ACS List of Cases that Require an Assistant at Surgery, 2020 (PDF)
Perioperative Nurse Links (state nursing boards & professional associations)
APRN Nurse Links

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this newsletter are strictly those of their respective authors and do not necessarily represent the views of NIFA. NIFA does not give any express or implied warranty as to the accuracy of statements made by our contributors and does not accept any liability for error or omission. It is the responsibility of all perioperative personnel to work within and adhere to their facility bylaws and individual scope of practice.

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