A 44-year-old man suffering from arachnophobia got rid of his fear after undergoing surgery where a part of his brain was removed.
The unnamed man suffered from unexplained seizures. Doctors then found out that his left amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, was damaged. To get rid of his seizures, doctors had to cut out the damaged part of the brain.
According to the Daily Mail, the man’s arachnophobia disappeared after his surgery. Before his surgery, he would throw balls at spiders, cripple them using hairspray, and vacuumed them. After his surgery, however, he started having interest in spiders and can even touch them. In addition to getting rid of his arachnophobia, he developed an aversion to music after his surgery. He found out about it when he felt a “stomach-lurching” feeling when he heard music on a television advertisement.
The man’s aversion to music died down eventually, and his arachnophobia didn’t come back.
In a study to be published on January 27 in Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition, Dr. Nick Medford of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and his team detailed how the man’s arachnophobia was eliminated after having a part of his brain removed, Tech Times reports.
“We report the case of a patient in whom arachnophobia was abolished after left temporal mesial lobectomy, with unchanged fear responses to other stimuli.”
According to Dr. Medford, the man’s arachnophobia was removed after surgery, as we have two types of fear responses.
“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. 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.”
Dr. Medford said that when a part of the man’s brain was removed, parts of the brain responsible for the quick-and-dirty panic response were “destroyed,” while the part of the brain that deals with the more nuanced fear-response was untouched. That would also explain why the man’s fear of public speaking remained, while his arachnophobia was eliminated.
Since arachnophobia is quite a common condition, researchers said that they will monitor patients who undergo similar surgeries in the future to see if it will also cure their arachnophobia. The amygdala cannot be disrupted without surgery, as it lies deep inside the brain, and that is the only way to find out if the surgery can find cures.
Researchers will now be testing phobias of patients before they undergo surgery. They aim to see if certain surgical procedures can be done to eliminate phobias.
[Image via Spring]