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"The signal projected by the Markers permeates everything and everyone. We are all affected differently. Some are driven to rage. Others suffer hallucinations. And still others fall into a gibbering dementia. But perhaps the most insidious effect it has is when we don't realize it has taken hold of us. Indeed, we show no outward signs of madness. We believe we are following our natural compulsions. And in all likelihood, we will not realize this manipulation until our ill-conceived plans come to fruition and it is too late to reverse our actions."
—Dr. Earl Serrano[1]
DS2 Intro Nicole Marker

Isaac Clarke sees a vision of his dead girlfriend and a Red Marker as a result of his dementia.

Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired individual. Within the context of Dead Space, the term is used to describe the psychological effects of the influence of the signal emanated by the Markers and the Brethren Moons, which can include acute depression, insomnia, personality shifts, vivid hallucinations, obsessive or violent behavior, extreme paranoia, and other schizophrenic-like symptoms.[2]

For a list of hallucinations resulting from Marker-induced dementia, see this article.


"His bizarre explanation of the events on the colony points to the same paranoia we've seen elsewhere planetside. His guilt is not in doubt [...] and Harris doesn't deny his actions. But he shows no remorse. In fact, he insists there was no crime. Specifically, that Evans "wasn't a nurse" when he killed her. This is classic sociopathic behavior, but Harris exhibits no other symptoms. He is affable and friendly, able to empathize and offer original opinions. When questioned about Evans's murder, however, he becomes withdrawn and uncommunicative. He claims the explanation is "stuck in his mind" and that talking about it "mixes up its message". He also undergoes intermittent hallucinatory periods, again similar to those experienced by other colonists. During his long waking periods, Harris exhibits writing behavior on any available surface, claiming "the dreams need to speak" and that he's attempting to "make it whole again"."
—Medical examination of Brant Harris.[3]
DSR Little Eyes

Self-harm and the writing of messages with one's own blood are commonly observed.

Depending on the person, the symptoms are different and happen more quickly, depending on the length of the exposure to a Marker signal or the psychological state of the subject. If the affected individual is already in an unbalanced mental state, for example, due to unresolved personal issues or emotional trauma, the dementia will more easily push them over the edge.[2]

Initial symptoms usually include depression and insomnia, before hallucinations and the scrawling of symbols begin manifesting. Very few individuals are immune to the effects of the Marker, with the only confirmed example being Lexine Weller. For most, the Marker's carrier wave is experienced as voices or visions which instill paranoid or violent thoughts, leading them to harm others around them or themselves,[4][5] while a certain few are given an urge to "understand" and replicate the Marker, and are guided to do so.[6]

0544 sgn ch01 recroompaperart01 c

Drawings from the demented patients at Project Telomere. Note the eye imagery, referencing the method of activating the Marker-affected parts of the human brain.

The Marker signal heavily affects the lateral geniculate nucleus, causing the subject to "see" things that are not physically there and allowing the Marker to implant instructions in the brains of those it influences, which can be activated through stimulation of the LGN.[7] Because of this, affected individuals have claimed to "feel" the Marker's influence directly behind their eyes.[6][8]

The dementia can also cause individuals to unconsciously perform actions as if they have become "possessed" by the Marker signal; for example, when Isaac Clarke landed his shuttle carrying the Marker on Aegis VII while drifting in and out of consciousness,[9] and when Kinner Phelps awoke to find that he had unwittingly constructed a tiny Marker in one of Project Telomere's mineral baths after being exposed to the blueprints from Isaac's mind.[10]


Depression and Insomnia[]

Ishimura Crew #1: "I can't sleep, I can't eat. Ever since we got here, I've been having horrible nightmares. I need it to stop! Please make it stop!"
Ishimura Crew #2: "All I could get for you are these sleeping pills. People have been hoarding the good stuff - it's getting hard to find. God, I'd kill for something to numb this headache!"
—Conversation between two USG Ishimura crew members after the ship's arrival at Aegis VII.[7]
DSE Nightmare Necromorph

Individuals exposed to the signal begin to have nightmares, often involving monsters.

Typically, the very first symptoms of exposure to the Marker signal at a great distance consist of acute morbid depression, attention deficiency and insomnia interspersed with realistic nightmares. In addition, many people experience headaches as the signal begins to touch their brains. This causes the population around the Marker to become exhausted and have reduced mental capabilities, leading to an increased risk of making mistakes at work, as well as making them vulnerable to further manipulation as the Marker's influence increases.[4][5][6]

Paranoia and Violent Tendencies[]

SCAF Sergeant Lumley on Tau Volantis.[11]
DSR Cut Them Out

A demented patient on the USG Ishimura kills a fellow crew member.

Many subjects affected by the Marker signal begin to enter a state of paranoia and aggression, usually leading them to see others as a threat. These delusions may culminate in the subject attacking others around themselves and possibly even killing them. In some cases, the individual may even enter an animalistic state and begin violently attacking anyone they come into contact with. This helps prepare the next stage of the Marker's plan by creating corpses that the Necromorph infection can take over.

DSE Colonist Eat

A woman found biting the corpse of a fellow colonist on Aegis VII.

In many cases, individuals who were previously not Unitologists begin to religiously revere the Marker and regard it with worshipful admiration. For example, Brant Harris was not a believer, though his contact with Marker 3A led to him beginning to think that "God" was speaking through the artifact and needed to be heard.[8] These beliefs may eventually lead the affected person to harm others as they are convinced they have a divine duty to protect the Marker from those they irrationally view as wanting to "hurt" the artifact.[4]

The effects of the signal are not limited to intelligent species; for example, dogs aboard the SCAF flotilla became agitated once the ships entered the orbit of Tau Volantis, attempting to claw their way out of their cages and ripping their paws apart in the process.[12]


"They all have to die. You know that, don't you? Death is the answer, Sam... it's so obvious..."
Marker 3A's hallucinations speaking to Sam Caldwell on Aegis VII.[13]
DS3 Carver What Are You Afraid Of

John Carver sees a vision of his dead wife.

Initial hallucinations caused by the Marker signal mainly consist of voices in the sufferer's head, often whispering, before evolving into visual hallucinations such as people. Depending on the situation, the hallucinations encourage the subject to do the Marker's bidding in a variety of ways, from becoming paranoid and wary of others, to becoming obsessed with protecting the Marker, to even having suicidal thoughts and the belief that material life is unimportant.[4]

DSR Ritual Complete

Isaac Clarke hallucinates and hears whispers from Marker 3A's influence.

These visions can often be peaceful, calmly convincing the individuals that their worldly existence and material concerns are inconsequential, and that they must let go of their lives to find a better sense of unity and enlightenment in death where they can be "made whole".[5] On the other hand, many subjects may experience more severe and violent visions, such as monsters that are not really there or other horrifying experiences and voices that attempt to make the subject hurt themselves or others around them.

DSE Lexine Ghost

Nathan McNeill sees a monstrous Lexine Murdoch lunging at him.

On the Sprawl, children were reported seeing their dead relatives as a result of the Site 12 Marker's signal and becoming more aggressive towards each other. On the USM Valor, Zach Hammond was tormented by a hallucination of the deceased Corporal Aiden Chen, eventually seeing the Slasher form of Chen as the unharmed Corporal, causing him to be killed by the creature. On the USG Ishimura's Mining Deck, one of the miners was convinced by a vision of a dead colleague that he needed "peace and quiet" and that "the smelters need fuel", leading him to kill his fellow survivors and, presumably, dispose of their bodies in his delusional state.[14] On Aegis VII, Sam Caldwell saw his fellow miners as monsters, which caused him to unwittingly begin a killing spree as he believed he was being attacked.

DS3 Carver Dead Inside

Carver sees decorations informing him that he is "dead inside".

The Marker's hallucinations are not limited to visions of people or monsters that are not really there, as they can also significantly alter the subject's perception of the environment around them. Examples of this include the Ishimura's Chief Engineer hallucinating the ship's engine machinery as a massive human heart and being drawn towards it,[15] Nathan McNeill nearly walking into a large fan that he had hallucinated as an open tunnel, and John Carver seeing his deceased son's birthday decorations on Tau Volantis.

DSR Reunion

Isaac is influenced by the ghost of "Nicole" into becoming a vessel for Marker construction.

However, certain individuals may instead be deemed to be more useful alive than dead, such as those who are more capable of "understanding" the Markers and replicating them; in these cases, the hallucinations do not push the subject to die or descend into homicidal madness, but rather gradually manipulate them into doing the Markers' bidding.[6] The most notable example of this was with Isaac Clarke, who was influenced and guided by a vision of his dead girlfriend, Nicole Brennan.

Dementia Land[]

"You have nothing left, John. No wife. No son. No soul. No will to live. We're waiting for you, John. I saved a place on the couch just for you. Join us..."
—The ghost of Damara Carver to John Carver in the "dementia land".[16]
DS3 Carver Marker

Carver faces a Marker in a "dementia land" resembling his family home.

When the signal's influence on a person's brain is strongest, it can bring the subject in a state of coma temporarily, transporting their consciousness to a "dementia land" filled with shadowy figures, strange landscapes, and even objects and sounds from the individual's past memories. Notable examples of individuals pulled into this "dementia land" include Isaac Clarke, Karrie Norton and John Carver.

Codes and Blueprints[]

"It's the people that are different. Smart people "see" codes and blueprints, but to everyone else, it's just noise."
—Bonnie Worthington[17]
DSR Isaac Marker Gift

Marker 3A imprints its signal and blueprints onto Isaac's brain after being reunited with its pedestal.

While the Marker signal affects the brains of all individuals, it is only able to manifest its full "sentience" and "speak" to a select few,[6][18][19] who have either a higher intelligence[17][20] or more compatible DNA.[6] Rather than simply driving them to create fodder for the Necromorphs, the Marker's dementia may turn these compatible individuals into "vessels"[6] to fulfill complex tasks, such as building more Markers by imprinting instructions to do so in their minds.[21] This process can indelibly mark them with a "self-replicating" Marker signal;[22] even if the subject is no longer within range of a Marker, it will continue to manipulate their brain and compel them to share their knowledge and build replicas.[6]

Isaac's medical condition

Isaac's mental condition after his contact with Marker 3A, noting his delusions and the repetition of phrases related to Marker replication. The symbols translate to: "The sickness is the cure! The cure is the sickness!"

Notable examples of subjects who can better "hear" the Marker and take in its deeper messages include Isaac Clarke, Brant Harris, Terrence Kyne, Elizabeth Cross and Nolan Stross, who all became live pawns for the Markers' plans after the signal resonated with them. Some individuals may receive knowledge related to the Necromorph infection, as seen with Dr. Challus Mercer, whose contact with the signal gave him knowledge of new surgical techniques and technical designs, which he used to perform his experiments and would eventually lead to the creation of the Hunter.[8]

In the case of Isaac following the events on Aegis VII, it appears that the imprinted Marker blueprints in his brain may even have the capacity to infect others who were exposed to them, as the scientist Kinner Phelps on Titan Station recorded logs detailing his obsession with the Marker replication formulas following his sessions with Isaac during Project Telomere, repeatedly hearing them in his head "like a song".[10][23]

0078 proppileofpapers c

Blueprints scribbled by Isaac on Luna. The messages written in Marker symbols translate to: "One", "No sleep", "Make us whole!", "Replication" and "Marker".

Though Isaac managed to diminish the Marker's influence on him to some extent through his mental "battle" on the Sprawl,[2] his mind was still not completely free from it years later, leading him to remain in hiding on the New Horizons Lunar Colony. In a personal log, Isaac stated his belief that he was "permanently broken", evidenced by notes in his apartment that pointed to his still-present tendency to write down Marker blueprints.


DeadSpace 2 - Patient

A page of scrawlings from Nolan Stross. The symbols translate to: "Cross my heart and hope to die", "If only they knew what I can't unknow", "Life to death to life eternal", "Stick a needle in my eye", and "This darkness is crushing me".

Main article: Marker Symbols

Common to all individuals affected by Marker-induced dementia is the compulsive scrawling of symbols on any surface they can find, sometimes even leading them to draw on their own skin or use their own blood.[24] This is usually triggered by the Marker pulsing and "releasing" a wave of symbols that causes the subjects to begin hallucinating and seeing the strange writings all around themselves, with some of the affected even having their vision completely obscured by the symbols.

In these cases, the subjects may enter a trance-like state as they write down elaborate messages and instructions with the Marker's language, with some even claiming to hear the symbols "whispering" to them.



Dead Space 2 - Dementia

Dead Space 2's Dementia Trailer.

  • According to a 2021 interview with former Visceral Games developers, the idea from Ben Wanat and Chuck Beaver after fully developing the lore was that Isaac was a "herald of the Markers" for having "DNA that was compatible with the Marker signal", implying that it is not just their intelligence that determines someone's affinity for building and propagating the Markers, but their DNA as well. As described in the interview, "[Isaac] was kind of what the Necromorph ecology looks like in its prey species; somebody to help them eat the rest of the inhabited planets".[25] This suggests that, either by chance or, more likely, by design of a Black Marker's influence over living beings' evolution, certain members of a host species are inherently more capable of communicating with and understanding the Markers in order to be used as pawns to replicate them.
  • During the "dementia moments" in Dead Space (2023) while Isaac pilots the shuttle to Aegis VII and when the Marker emits its powerful pulse after being reunited with its pedestal, several distorted voices and monstrous shrieks can be heard in the background, presumably symbolizing the "voices" of the Brethren Moons speaking to Isaac through the Marker signal.
DS2 Marker Mind Menu

The main menu of Dead Space 2, representing Isaac's brain with a fully-formed Red Marker implanted in it. The symbols next to the Marker translate to: "In the end, it all comes down to just one little thing..."

  • As Isaac's Marker 3A-induced dementia continues to corrupt his mind in Dead Space 2, the main menu adapts to show this through larger manifestations of Red Marker fragments in Isaac's synapses as the player progresses; this is done to metaphorically show the worsening of his condition and to show that, as he regains his memories throughout the game, the implanted blueprints of the Marker slowly begin to resurface and become "whole" (hence why Nolan Stross, who had also been given memory suppressants and awakens sooner, can recall the procedure of the Noonlight Diagnostics Machine earlier).
    • One of the messages written in Marker symbols in the main menu background refers to Nicole Brennan as "Ixtab the Rope Woman", a deity known as the goddess of suicide by hanging in indigenous Yucatec Maya culture (interestingly, the same region where the Black Marker was found), who was thought to accompany such suicides to heaven. This appears to reference the role of Nicole's apparition in the story of Dead Space 2, where she similarly plays the role of a psychopomp, guiding Isaac in his ascension to the afterlife as part of Convergence; as Isaac has fulfilled his purpose of building a new Marker and must now succumb to death as the Marker's "maker", "Nicole" appears to guide him in his journey towards accepting death, becoming a peaceful and almost ethereal presence after Isaac admits that she is the only thing he has left in his life, and telling him that she is there to "show [him] the way".

Dead Space 2 - Dementia (Nicole Brennan - 2)

One of the visions experienced by Isaac during the "dementia moments", showing Marker plans and equations interspersed with Nicole's ghostly face.

  • During a few of Isaac's "dementia moments" in Dead Space 2, the screens around him light up with disturbing imagery while Nicole's voice speaks to him. These screens show various numbers, equations and even cross-sections of the Marker interspersed with shots of Nicole's ghostly face to signify the Marker's blueprints and influence over Isaac growing over time.
    • Interestingly, after activating the Marker data in Isaac's brain using the Noonlight Diagnostics Machine, the Enhanced Slashers encountered for the remainder of the game have different sound effects, their "voices" sounding noticeably more human and seeming to shout "No!" after being killed. It is possible that this is to show Isaac's better understanding and closeness with the Necromorph ecology after stimulating the Marker's influence in his mind.



  1. Log:Alien Artifact 09
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dead Space 3 Dev Blog: Dead Space, Dementia and Punishing the Heroes
  3. Log:Patient Observations
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dead Space (comics)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Dead Space: Salvage
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Dead Space: Catalyst
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dead Space 2
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Log:Harris's Choice
  9. Dead Space (2023) - Isaac's Journal: It's strange... I don't remember landing. But we're here, on Aegis VII. I need to unload the Marker from the shuttle.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Log:Tiny Marker
  12. Log:S.C.A.F.-ISC-31005 CMS-Roanoke
  13. Dead Space: Extraction
  14. Log:Miner's Log
  15. Log:Chief Engineer's Log
  16. Dead Space 3
  17. 17.0 17.1 Log:Same Signal
  18. Dead Space (2023) - Harris: Oh god. I can see... The Marker's codes! It's been trying to show me... They're hungry. They're coming. They'll make us whole. Doctor. I see it now. The Marker speaks... and we can answer...
  19. Dead Space 3 - The Story so Far ("That Marker spoke to him and left him with a gift: a mental blueprint of the Marker itself.")
  20. Dead Space 3 Dev Team Edition
  21. Log:Negotiations
  22. Dead Space 2 - Daina: The Marker you found imprinted your brain with a self-replicating signal. The longer you're awake, the more the signal spreads.
  23. Log:Patient Four
  24. Log:Witnessing The Truth
  25. Dead Space interview with Chuck Beaver, Ben Swanson and Nick Braccia
  26. Dialogue Differences in Dead Space (2023)