Man cured of arachnophobia after doctors remove part of his brain
If you can surgically shed pounds, why not your worst fears?
A British man with a fear of spiders inadvertently had just that happen to him when he went under the knife for a brain abnormality and came out a brave, arachnid-loving new man.
The unidentified patient had been suffering from seizures when a brain scan found he had a damaged, left amygdala, which doctors suggested they remove, New Scientist reported.
The amygdala, described as an almond-shaped set of neurons, is linked to both fear responses and pleasure.
After successfully having it removed, he curiously began reporting a “stomach-lurching” aversion to music as well as being no longer afraid of spiders.
While his dislike of music eventually went away, his fear of the creepy crawlies has yet to return. In a total 180, he actually says he’s now fascinated by them and able to even touch them.
The surgery apparently did not affect all his fears, however, with him claiming to still suffer anxiety from public speaking as one example. But his one phobia of spiders is gone.
“The phenomenon of abolition of specific phobia after amygdala removal has not, to our knowledge, been previously reported,” the report, published in “Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition,” read.
Dr. Nick Medford with the UK’s Brighton and Sussex Medical School personally observed the man and while he’s not entirely positive about the reason behind the reaction, he has a theory.
After examination, the Consultant Neuropsychiatrist suggested the surgery affected one type of fear – the panic-type kind prompted as a reaction to something.
“It’s like when you see a snake and you jump back in alarm, but when you look back you realize it’s just a stick,” he told New Scientist. “That’s your quick-and-dirty panic response: it isn’t very accurate but it’s necessary for basic survival. And then there’s the more nuanced fear-appraisal which takes longer to process but is more accurate.”
While the patient has asked not to undergo future testing or examinations, Medford hopes that scientists and researchers will be able to learn from others who undergo similar surgical procedures, which he said are “not uncommon” for those who suffer severe epilepsy.