Tags: impaired | fearless | patients | scared

Study: Impaired 'Fearless' Patients Can Still Be Scared Using CO2

By    |   Monday, 04 Feb 2013 04:54 PM

People who are neurologically incapable of feeling fear, but nonetheless have been scared by a newly developed method, are helping scientists differentiate between different kinds of fear -- like external threats and internal dangers such as suffocation.

The development? Asking the subjects with the disorder to inhale carbon dioxide.

One woman in the study, identified as SM, was involved in an accident that damaged her amygdala, part of the brain that responds to external fears, the Hamilton Spectator reported.

Researchers subjected her to frightening movies and asked her to handle snakes. She was unfazed. Because she lives in a crime-ridden area, she had even faced death threats and robberies at knife and gunpoint.

However, when SM was asked to breathe air that was 35 percent carbon dioxide, she seemed to get scared again. In fact, she had a panic attack.

Only 14 seconds after she inhaled the toxic gas, she started gasping and waving her hands. The researchers had hypothesized that S.M. would not panic, but John A. Wemmie, a neuroscientist at the University of Iowa, said, “We saw the exact opposite.”

SM told researchers she was surprised by her response.Two other women, identical twins with amygdala damage, also reported that, to their surprise, they felt intense fear.

The researchers reported their findings in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience.

The air humans breathe naturally is less than one percent carbon dioxide. When humans breathe air that has more carbon dioxide than that, "[the] body’s alarms are firing like crazy within the first 10 seconds," Wemmie said.

The idea for the study came from a recent study with mice that showed the animal's amygdala displayed waves of fear when subjected to carbon dioxide.

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A new study claims to have found a way to scare people who are neurologically incapable of feeling fear by asking them to inhale more-than-normal amounts of carbon dioxide.
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Monday, 04 Feb 2013 04:54 PM
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