Navigation Links
Brain Anomaly Leaves Woman Without Fear
Date:12/16/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers who have studied a woman with a missing amygdala -- the part of the brain believed to generate fear -- report that their findings may help improve treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders.

In perhaps the first human study confirming that the almond-shaped structure is crucial for triggering fear, researchers at the University of Iowa monitored a 44-year-old woman's response to typically frightening stimuli such as snakes, spiders, horror films and a haunted house, and asked about traumatic experiences in her past.

The woman, identified as S.M., does not seem to fear a wide range of stimuli that would normally frighten most people. Scientists have been studying her for the past 20 years, and their prior research had already determined that the woman cannot recognize fear in others' facial expressions.

S.M. suffers from an extremely rare disease that destroyed her amygdala. Future observations will determine if her condition affects anxiety levels for everyday stressors such as finance or health issues, said study author Justin Feinstein, a University of Iowa doctoral student studying clinical neuropsychology.

"Certainly, when it comes to fear, she's missing it," Feinstein said. "She's so unique in her presentation."

Researchers said the study, reported in the Dec. 16 issue of the journal Current Biology, could lead to new treatment strategies for PTSD and anxiety disorders. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, more than 7.7 million Americans are affected by the condition, and a 2008 analysis predicted that 300,000 soldiers returning from combat in the Middle East would experience PTSD.

"Because of her brain damage, [the patient] appears to be immune to PTSD," Feinstein said, noting that she is otherwise cognitively typical and experiences other emotions such as happiness and sadness.

In addition to recording her responses to spiders, snakes and other scary stimuli, the researchers measured her experience of fear using many standardized questionnaires that probed various aspects of the emotion, such as fear of death or fear of public speaking. She also carried a computerized emotion diary for three months that randomly asked her to rate her fear level throughout the day.

Perhaps most notable, Feinstein said, are her many near-misses with peril because of her inability to avoid dangerous circumstances. In one case, when she was 30, she approached a drugged out-looking man late one night who pulled a knife and threatened to kill her.

Because of her complete absence of fear, the woman -- who heard a choir singing in a nearby church -- responded, "If you're going to kill me, you're going to have to go through my God's angels first." The man abruptly let her go.

The mother of three was also seen by her children approaching and picking up a large snake near their home with no seeming regard for its ability to harm her, Feinstein said.

"Its a perfect example of the sort of situation she gets herself in that anyone without brain damage would be able to avoid," Feinstein said. "With her brain damage, she's so trusting, so approachable to everything. In hindsight, [her response to the man with the knife] may have saved her life because the guy got freaked out."

Alicia Izquierdo, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles, said the study results add to existing evidence that the amygdala should be targeted in developing therapies for phobias, anxiety disorders and PTSD, "where too much fear is a bad thing."

"In small doses, fear is a good thing -- it keeps us alive," Izquierdo said. "For many years, we have known from studies in rodents and monkeys that the amygdala is necessary for the normal expression of fear. Those who study the amygdala in animals are limited, however . . . and can only speculate about what this brain region does for the experience of fear."

"This is one reason why the study . . . is so meaningful: We can now say that the amygdala is important for the expression and the subjective experience of fear," she added.

Feinstein said PTSD treatment tactics targeting the amygdala would not involve surgically removing or altering it. Rather, it is thought that the amygdala's hyperactive response in frightening situations can be modified over time through repetitively doing things a patient considers scary.

"This prolonged exposure therapy involves approaching the things causing them distress and fear the most," Feinstein said. "We don't ever want to surgically alter this area."

More information

For more on PTSD, go to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCES: Justin Feinstein, doctoral student, University of Iowa; Alicia Izquierdo, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, California State University, Los Angeles; Dec. 16, 2010, Current Biology


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Gadgets not related to teenagers brain pain
2. Dementia Rates Escalate as Brain Capacity Diminishes with Age
3. Researchers discover new way to kill pediatric brain tumors
4. Scientists Pinpoint Area of Brain That Fears Losing Money
5. Physical Changes in Brain Linked to Altered Spirituality
6. Pro Athletes Brains React at Olympic Speed
7. Neuroscientists reveal new links that regulate brain electrical activity
8. Brain Scan Shows What Beauty is Worth
9. Study supports alternative anti-seizure medication following acute brain injury
10. Exercise helps protect brain of multiple sclerosis patients
11. Pittsburgh Neurosurgeons Explore Use of Drug that Illuminates Brain Tumor Cells To Guide Surgery
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Brain Anomaly Leaves Woman Without Fear 
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... Pixel Film Studios Released ProSlice Levels, a Media Slicing ... their videos a whole new perspective by using the title layers in ProSlice ... , ProSlice Levels contains over 30 Different presets to choose from. FCPX ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... ... they have been diagnosed with endometriosis. These women need a treatment plan to ... a comprehensive approach that can help for preservation of fertility and ultimately achieving ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Miami, FL (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... The temporary closing of Bruton ... Plant City Observer , brings up a new, often overlooked aspect of head lice: ... The closing for fumigation is not a common occurrence, but a necessary one in the ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... , ... As a lifelong Southern Californian, Dr. Omkar Marathe earned his Bachelors ... Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He trained in Internal Medicine at Scripps Green ... hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive View-Cedars Sinai program where he had the opportunity to train ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Montreal, Canada (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... the pursuit of success. In terms of the latter, setting the bar too high ... low, risk more than just slow progress toward their goal. , Research from ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... June 27, 2016 Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc (Nasdaq: ... under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as ... Celator Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("Celator"; Nasdaq: CPXX ) ... Daylight Time). As previously announced on May ... definitive merger agreement under which Jazz Pharmaceuticals has commenced ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Global Blood Therapeutics, Inc. (GBT) (NASDAQ: ... novel therapeutics for the treatment of grievous blood-based ... closing of its previously announced underwritten public offering ... public offering price of $18.75 per share. All ... by GBT. GBT estimates net proceeds from the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... -- Dehaier Medical Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: DHRM ... sells medical devices and wearable sleep respiratory products in ... agreement with Hongyuan Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd. (hereinafter ... 2016, to develop Dehaier,s new Internet medical technology business. ... leverage Hongyuan Supply Chain,s sales platform to reach Dehaier,s ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: