Afraid of Nothing?

– – Excessive fear is certainly not a good thing, but it’s likewise undesirable to be afraid of nothing.  A woman with a rare genetic disorder, Urbach-Wiethe disease, falls into the latter category, and is literally afraid of nothing.  Her condition is associated with damage to her amygdala, an almond-shaped portion of the brain strongly associated with fear responses in past research on animals.

Researchers at the University of Iowa tried their best to scare a 44-year old female with the condition, exposing her to live snakes and spiders, taking her on a tour of a supposedly haunted house, and showing the subject emotionally-evocative films; they got nothing! The subject also had a life history full of dangerous situations, including being held up at both knifepoint and gunpoint, and almost killed by domestic violence.  Even in those situations, the subject did not experience fear.

Through study of this woman, researchers hope to be able to better understand how the amygdala is connected to human fear, leading to better treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Explore posts in the same categories: animals, psychology, research, science

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2 Comments on “Afraid of Nothing?”

  1. carycomic Says:

    Sounds similar to a 1970’s Batman story I read about a guy named Cosmo “Skull” Dugger who was a comparatively unusual mad scientist. He suffered from anhedonia (chronic inability to feel joy), so he started serially killing certain people in order to absorb their endorphins, after they had experienced certain moments of intense pleasure!*

    *Albeit, not necessarily carnal ones. 😉


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