The strange story of a man who did not know fear

Justin Feinstein struggled for six years to scare Subject under the code designation Sm . He showed her “The Witch of Blair, Fear of Spiders, Radiance, and Silence of the Lambs – useless. He took her to an exotic animal store, but she for no apparent reason she took out a snake from the terrarium and enthusiastically she touched her tongue with a finger. And only because of the intervention of the seller she could not make friends with a pretty tarantula spider. Then mr Feinstein took her to an abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium Waverly Hills – “the scariest house in the world”, according to advertising booklets. Attraction attendants regularly included strange noises and creepy music, and the actors struggled to portray killers, monsters and ghosts, but she only laughed when others tourists gratefully screamed in horror. Moreover, she accidentally succeeded scare one of the “monsters” when she tried out of curiosity touch his head. Fear Factory – Tonsils brain – in SM is absent. Photos from open sources

Mr. Feinstein, Clinical Neuropsychologist, California Institute of Technology (USA), on this example, tried to understand how fear is born in our brains. The benefits of this are the sea. For example, effective treatments could be developed. post-traumatic stress disorder.

A photo open source SM attracted the attention of scientists when knocked on the lab neurologist Daniel Tranela of the University Iowa State (USA) in the mid-1980s. She was just delivered diagnosis of Urbach-Vite disease. This is a genetic disorder so rare that less than three hundred are known today cases. Symptoms include skin lesions and calcium deposits. in the brain. In SM, the disease destroyed both the amygdala. “So a localized lesion is extremely rare, – notes neuroscientist Daniel Kennedy from Indiana University (USA). “There are only a few dozen such cases.” Seeing this, Mr. Tranel realized that he had a unique chance to study the functions of this area brain. The amygdala (one in each hemisphere) play an important role in the formation of emotions, especially fear. It’s a long time known, but the details are foggy. In particular, scientists cannot yet say how much the amygdala is needed for fear, notes Mike Koenigs of the University of Wisconsin Madison (USA). Perhaps amygdala activity recorded with a tomograph, is just the result of activities in other areas brain. It would seem that the case of SM ruled out this possibility, because together with amygdala, her sense of fear completely disappeared while the rest of the emotional palette has not undergone changes. At the same time, she was extremely lively. Can to say, in a sense, she was chasing after new sensations. Once, scientists invited her to a restaurant, where she enjoyed chatted with the waiter, and the next day asked to take her to same place. Seeing the same waiter, she was noticeably cheerful and was extremely friendly with him. This is a sign that, in contrast from most other people, SM is not able to recognize hardly noticeable hints that make us behave more restrained in certain situations. “People you and I would think dark persons, she would call trustworthy, – says Mr. Kennedy. – She is biased towards people in that sense that he wants to get closer to everyone. “Apparently, the amygdala bodies are responsible not only for fear as emotion, but also for some aspects of social behavior. Mr. Kennedy recently checked the degree SM’s openness as an example of her sense of personal space. He asked women slowly approach SM, and that was to give a sign, when she begins to feel discomfort. This border is located on 0.34 m from it, i.e. almost twice as close as others participants in the experiment. Moreover, it turned out that SM is not capable read facial expressions, but not able to selectively: she sees joy and sadness, but fear cannot be determined. And this subconscious reaction: persons distorted by fear or anger, interspersed with expressionless faces appeared on the screen is only 40 ms, and SM was required to press the button as can be faster at the sight of a person expressing fear rather than anger. FROM She accomplished this task in much the same way as the others. But when she was given unlimited time to think, she became make a mistake. Digging deeper, Mr. Kennedy discovered that the problem was how the brain directs her gaze. SM just doesn’t look in the eyes people when fear is read in them, that is, when they expand. When she was placed in such conditions that she could not help but look at eyes, she often began to correctly identify the faces of frightened people. Thus, the amygdala is not just a “detector” danger. “The danger appears to be recorded by others. areas of the brain, and amygdala according to the results of this work drive our attention to gather critical information about degree of danger. The result is a feeling of fear. A since the amygdala was absent in SM, she only felt excitement is akin to a sense of excitement, but not fear. This explains that in the pet store and in the “haunted house” she was not indifferent, as one would expect from a fearless person. But Mr. Feinstein slept destroyed this harmonious theory. His finally managed to scare the poor thing. In one of the experiments to she was joined by twins AM and BG with identical injuries amygdala Mr. Feinstein turned to the classic test for panic: asked participants to wear masks that were fed air with a 35 percent carbon dioxide content. For most healthy people shortness of breath immediately begins, quickens palpitations, sweat appears, dizzy. About a quarter panics. Oddly enough, all three also survived the panic. SMwaved her hands, pointing to the mask, and shouted: “Help!” When the mask was removed, she said: “I panicked, because the hell didn’t understand what was going on. “For the first time since the onset of the illness, she experienced fear. The other two reacted almost the same way. AMShe grimaced and squeezed her left hand into a fist, trying to free herself. By she said, she was afraid that she would suffocate, and noticed that it was the most terrible moment in her life. BG began to gasp for air and she tore off the mask, admitting later that she felt something completely new is the fear of near death. After this, Mr. Feinstein did not know what to think. For decades, a pair of amygdala the brain was described as the center of fear, and it seemed natural that in their absence, a person becomes desperately brave. However scientist soon came to the conclusion that the old theory is not so wrong. Apparently, the brain differently processes threats from within. (asthma, heart attack, etc.). “This is the primary layer, the base form of fear, ”emphasizes Mr. Feinstein. Indeed, it’s not why strain attention and assess the state of the environment: high level of carbon dioxide in the inhaled air directly leads to a change in blood acidity, in resulting in a cascade of reactions in the brain. Therefore panic arises without “tonsils” – most likely, somewhere in the hypothalamus and periaqueductal (central) gray matter. And here it is necessary pay attention to such an important point. People with amygdala, understand that this is a scientific experiment, that scientists will not let the terrible happen. That’s why they panic another one. In this case, our trio experienced the most that neither real dying horror. They could not properly interpret the excitement that has enveloped them. The role of the amygdala in the risk assessment explains another strange result of similar experiments. Healthy participants usually appear pre-emptive reaction when repeating the test: before repeated putting on a mask, their sweating pattern changes and slightly palpitations. Urbach Disease Volunteers – Vita in the second time they behave as fearlessly as the first. Therefore, the amygdala is also responsible for preserving memories of horror experienced. Interestingly, in a sample of 200 Vietnam war veterans with traumatic brain injury none of patients with damaged “tonsils” did not acquire post-traumatic stress disorder. So work with this area of ​​the brain should be very careful. For one thing, because we can’t get rid of painful memories, on the other – it protects us and teaches us how to avoid dangers. Deprived of her SM once admitted: “I would not wish anyone like that.”


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