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Woman with rare genetic disease feels no fear

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posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 01:52 PM
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I found this earlier and thought it was interesting. I did not know about this, but apparently there is a rare genetic disease which affects an area of the brain called the amygdala.The disease destroyed both sides of her brain that produce the fear emotion. Scientists attempted to scare her in many different ways with no luck, so do you think you could scare this woman? How about with conspiracy theories? I find it a little difficult to comprehend not being able to feel fear. It brings up some interesting speculation about evolution and how a genetic defect like this still persists, even if it is rare. Could it have helped to spark intelligence in humans similar to the domestication and rise of intelligence in canines that were not afraid to approach early human settlements?


A middle-aged woman known as SM blithely reaches for poisonous snakes, giggles in haunted houses and once, upon escaping the clutches of a knife-wielding man, didn’t run but calmly walked away. A rare kind of brain damage precludes her from experiencing fear of any sort, finds a study published online December 16 in Current Biology.

SM has an unusual genetic disorder called Urbach-Wiethe disease. In late childhood, this disease destroyed both sides of her amygdala, which is composed of two structures the shape and size of almonds, one on each side of the brain. Because of this brain damage, the woman knows no fear, the researchers found.

Experiments have strongly implicated the amygdala in fear processing. Many of these were conducted on animals with amygdala damage. “But one thing we’ve never known for sure, because they’re animals, is whether they can consciously feel fear,” says study coauthor Justin Feinstein of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “So we said, ‘Let’s take a human patient who has this same sort of damage, and for the first time, actually figure out how they’re feeling.’”

Feinstein and his colleagues sifted through SM’s past, looking for instances when she should have been scared. SM said she never felt fear, even when threatened with a knife or a gun. The researchers gave SM an electronic diary that she carried for three months to record her emotional state. Fear didn’t make an appearance in the list of emotions. On a battery of questionnaires, SM wrote that she wasn’t afraid of public speaking, death, her heart beating too fast or being judged negatively in a social setting.

Next, the researchers did their best to scare SM. They showed her clips from The Blair Witch Project, The Shining and Silence of the Lambs: She was interested, but not afraid. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium Haunted House in Kentucky didn’t faze her. Instead of screaming, she laughed and poked one of the monsters in the head. The team took her to an exotic pet store with poisonous snakes and spiders. SM claimed to dislike the animals, but when she saw them she was overcome with curiosity, repeatedly asking to touch the snakes.

“What that suggests to us is that perhaps the amygdala is acting at a very instinctual, unconscious level,” says Feinstein. “Without this area, instead of just losing your interest in things, you do the very thing that’s opposite. She tends to approach the very things she should be avoiding.”

Although the new study is based on a single patient, it is “a particularly clear example” of how the amygdala is important for fear, says neuroscientist Hans Markowitsch of the University of Bielefeld in Germany. “The woman indeed had almost no fear in quite divergent situations.”

Markowitsch cautions that a study on a single person can’t be extended to apply to other people, since many other factors influence how the brain and emotions work.

What’s more, pinning a complex emotional state to a single brain structure isn’t straightforward. “When you have to name a structure relevant for fear in the brain, everyone comes up with the amygdala,” Markowitsch says. “But one could argue that the amygdala cannot act on its own — it’s dependent on connections, on circuits, on other brain regions.”

The study’s authors can’t dismiss other brain regions’ roles in experiencing fear. Yet SM’s complete inability to experience the emotion — in a wide variety of forms — highlights the amygdala’s pivotal role in feeling afraid.


No Fear - Science News




posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 02:18 PM
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I wonder how they can conclude she does not feel fear..

they mention a couple times she giggles at things that typically cause fear...sounds to me that she simply is reacting differently to fear verses experiencing no fear.

This can be done by simple training actually...you can actually make people enjoy pain through associations.

if you are emotionless about something, you don't giggle or scream at it...your just completely unphased overall.


add: Its funny her initials are SM..almost makes me wonder if this is either some hoax, or a greater pattern in the universe. sadomasochism = the enjoyment of pain. which is very similar to the paradox this person is experiencing..a reversal of typical reactions.
edit on 18-12-2010 by SaturnFX because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:03 PM
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Psychopaths, and sociopaths are known not to feel any emotions whatsoever... Including fear.

Magnum



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:22 PM
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I don't know, its interesting to ponder about. It does say that scientists "stongly implicate" the amygdala with the feeling of fear, so they evidently didn't want to come forward and outright claim it was totally responsible for it. Like you said its possible she could feel something else in place of fear. For a radical example, if you did not feel fear if presented with an extraterrestrial contact scenario, what would you most likely feel? Curiousity?

It seems like other feelings would tie in with fear as well, such as disgust maybe, or excitement. I wonder how her body works to produce adrenaline, maybe it is always at a 'baseline' level and never rises like it would if presented with a dangerous scenario. Its hard to wrap my mind around, I would love to talk to this woman and ask her questions about it.

It has been proven that some people cannot feel pain, I suppose the same thing could be possible with any other feeling or emotion. This woman has had a genetic defect since birth, while sociopaths don't feel certain emotions because of events that have occurred throughout the process of their lives, am I right?

I imagine that it would be difficult for her to explain the way she feels to people without this disorder. I know how this would feel to a minimal extent, I am colorblind and have been my whole life of course. People ask me what its like to be colorblind and I really can't explain it very well because I don't have a control example to base it off of, I don't know what it looks like to see 'normal'.
edit on 18-12-2010 by RSF77 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:29 PM
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reply to post by RSF77
 


I'm afraid (no pun intended) i wouldnt feel fear in those situations either.

2nd



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:36 PM
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reply to post by jrmcleod
 


I would like to think that I wouldn't and just remain inquisitive, but I might just have to # myself before I start asking them questions about the universe. So hopefully they have restrooms on board.



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:41 PM
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Originally posted by RSF77
reply to post by jrmcleod
 


I would like to think that I wouldn't and just remain inquisitive, but I might just have to # myself before I start asking them questions about the universe. So hopefully they have restrooms on board.


I used to feel quite a lot of fear about pretty much anythig when i had Labarythitis. It causes acute severe anxiety and that anxiety develpoed a bit further before i got it under control. Now the only thing i fear is my anxiety returning. There are situations of course that would frighten me but i try my hardest to turn fear into positive protection of myself, my family, friends and everyone else.

But fear is normal, its how you can use fear that is important i guess...



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:47 PM
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Is fear a form of anxiety or visa versa?

I wonder if the woman has any feelings of anxiety? This could possibly lead to something helpful for people who experience a lot of anxiety. A drug that affects that area of the brain, or would that be too artificial and/or prone to misuse by the government? Not that they probably wouldn't already know about it.
edit on 18-12-2010 by RSF77 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:48 PM
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reply to post by RSF77
 


100$ (or the inflationary equivalent) that in under 10 years the pentagon will be injecting soldiers with something to create a similar effect...any takers?



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 03:55 PM
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Originally posted by RSF77
Is fear a form of anxiety or visa versa?

I wonder if the woman has any feelings of anxiety? This could possibly lead to something helpful for people who experience a lot of anxiety. A drug that affects that area of the brain, or would that be too artificial and/or prone to misuse by the government? Not that they probably wouldn't already know about it.
edit on 18-12-2010 by RSF77 because: (no reason given)


Well i was told by my doctor that the Amygdala is also partly responsible for anxiety attacks. Having the inner ear condition that i had (which will always reoccur) causes the brains perception of position to over react and thus causing some kind of anxiety.

Not too sure how it works but there could well be a link.

And i'm not sure if they are seperate. To be honest, i think they are the same thing...would they not come hand in hand to a certain extent?



posted on Dec, 18 2010 @ 04:06 PM
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OPs: about your hypothetical alien senario..I actually know how I would react.
I had mistakenly thought I bumped into a flipping alien. lol...this was some years back and I won't go into great detail, lets just say it was dark in a forest and some "odd stuff" was going on.

My immediate reaction was kneejerk curiousity and walking towards it talking..
later on, I pondered if that was even a wise thing to do if indeed I was right...but curiousity and interest was the only present emotions running...no fear.

next time, should similar events happen, I will have to consciously stop myself from walking forward until a better grasp of the situation is given..but then again, I also am the type that runs towards cries for help...which is actually against the norm come to find out.



posted on Dec, 20 2010 @ 07:54 AM
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reply to post by RSF77
 


I know nothing on this topic but I read this article yesterday and I was fascinated.




I wonder how her body works to produce adrenaline, maybe it is always at a 'baseline' level and never rises like it would if presented with a dangerous scenario.


Doesnt she still produce high levels of Adrenaline based on whatever the situation is at the moment?....It said when she was in the haunted house, she was excited much like being on a roller coaster than a haunted house or something containing fear. She was excited playing with the snakes and spiders. But when she puts herself in dangerous situations it seems like her instincts doesnt pass curiosity.

I'm really curious

She has trouble recognizing fear in facial expressions, for example.


She doesnt spark up fear from within, but does it really affect her recognizing fear in other people? If she saw someone who, to you and I, look obviously scared or shaken for whatever reason, she wouldnt pick that up at all either?



posted on Dec, 20 2010 @ 03:31 PM
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Psychopaths, and sociopaths are known not to feel any emotions whatsoever... Including fear.


I was going to mention this also...might be good to check for it...



posted on Dec, 20 2010 @ 06:22 PM
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Wasn't the pilot Red Baron in WW1 had the same "problem"? He had painted his plane red so all enemies can spot him first and he was rushing into them without fearing anything. Not cause of bravery though but due to brain malfunction.



posted on Dec, 21 2010 @ 06:42 AM
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Originally posted by SaturnFX
I wonder how they can conclude she does not feel fear..


The Iowa group have been studying SM for over 15 years now. Surprised they were able to squeeze another study like this out of her. For example:

Adolphs et al. (1995)

As the article suggests, the amygdala is mostly strongly associated with fear, although some neuroimaging studies suggest it also processes positive emotions and also some other negative emotions (e.g., anger). So there are a number of positions on the functions of the amygdala, such as valence processing (both + and -), preferentially negative emotions, solely emotional 'intensity' (sort of arousal) irrespective of valence, and stimulus value (a combination of arousal and valence). IMHO, the latter appears to be the case taking account of both animal and human studies.

There's many years worth of studies showing emotional dysfunction following amygdala damage. For example, amygdala damage alters social perception (particularly perceiving trustworthiness), emotional memory, and emotional decision making.

So how do they conclude she appears to show no fear? It's more a conclusion of over a decades worth of research. But the amygdala probably does a bit more than merely process fear/threat.

edit on 21-12-2010 by melatonin because: Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine.



posted on Dec, 21 2010 @ 06:55 AM
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Well give me this disease then!

That is really interesting it goes to show we are totally controlled by our emotions. Free spirit my arse.



posted on Dec, 21 2010 @ 07:25 AM
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Many people wouldn't mind to have such a disease. But I think it only seems to be cool



posted on Dec, 23 2010 @ 09:34 PM
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Originally posted by Alda1981
Wasn't the pilot Red Baron in WW1 had the same "problem"? He had painted his plane red so all enemies can spot him first and he was rushing into them without fearing anything. Not cause of bravery though but due to brain malfunction.


A movie on the Red Baron just showed yesterday.
All his squadron wanted to be painted brown for 'invisibility' camouflage but the Barron
said we do not hide from our enemies.
So the movie had these planes painted in different bright colors.
Pilot Brown got behind the Baron and ended his flight.
Just as in a narrated documentary the Baron seemed to land his plane at the end.

The Baron turned down the WWI shut down and planning for the next war and could not
get fighter piloting out of his system. He met Fokker aircraft head and had Hermann Göring
in his squad until he shot down non combatants and Ernst Udet.

net info



posted on Dec, 23 2010 @ 10:27 PM
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reply to post by RSF77
 

It is said enlightened beings,siddha gurus, are beyond
fear. It is written in the Upanishads that as soon as
an Other is noticed there is fear.
So if you peel off the layers of the Ego you come to this
last layer which is Fear or Terror. It is nearly impossible
to get past it.
So where is this lady spiritually?




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