Posted tagged ‘the fear response’

Afraid of Nothing?

December 20, 2010

– – 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.

The Lure of the Horrible

November 10, 2009

CreepshowThere’s a wonderful scene in the 1982 movie of Stephen King’s Creepshow showing a young boy who spots a monster outside of his window.  The expression on the boy’s face, however, is one of adoration rather than terror.- – I’m sure that many of us can relate to this!

– – Horror movies…why do we like them?–Well, social scientists suggest that we watch for different reasons which include the adrenaline rush, being distracted from mundane life, vicariously thumbing our noses at social norms, and enjoying a voyeuristic view of the horrific from a safe distance.– But above all, being scared is fun!

Neuroscientists like New York University’s Joseph LeDouz point out that fear is not merely a biological reaction, but an emotion derived from deep-seeded evolutionary factors as well as newly-learned cautions.  An interaction between the brain’s primitive amygdala and the higher cortex allows people to interpret an environmental event and respond with an emotion such as fear.  Once an emotion is aroused in the amygdala, it’s hard to turn it off, and if we like that sort of thing, we’re eager to turn that emotion on again.

…and this is why some of us suffer from a post-Halloween let-down, similar to that depression suffered by others after Xmas!–Ahh, for the Nightmare Before Christmas!


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