After I read this fascinating article about a woman with no fear, I sent it to an acquaintance of mine who is an expert in the field, Dr. Larry Kyle of Genway – the supermarket for genetically engineered foods. Here’s his reply:
A woman with no fear?
How sad! The feeling of fear is overwhelming and so deliciously intense! I don’t want to say fear is “fun”, but when you face an incident that triggers real fear, you feel vibrantly alive afterwards.
If, in fact, you’re alive afterwards.
In this study, the scientists set out to test whether the amygdala, an almond-shaped button inside the brain, is the physical seat of fear in humans as it is in animals. Their subject was a 44 year old mother of three who had lost her amygdala as the result of a rare disease.
What did they do to test her fear response? They introduced her to a snake and a spider at a pet store. They took her on a tour of a haunted house. And they showed her excerpts from “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Shining.” When she seemed unperturbed they concluded that her fear response was inhibited.
I’m very disappointed. She’s a mother of three! You can’t scare someone who has given birth three times by using one stupid pet store spider! You need at least 1,000 spiders rushing out of a shower drain just after she has put the shampoo in her hair.
And a tour of a haunted house? Please. If you have three children, your real house is haunted every day. Yes, there’s a zombie in the closet. So what? The really frightening stuff has to do with the funny smell coming out of the dryer and the growing realization that some people in this house don’t empty their pockets before they put their clothes down the chute.
Movie clips? They’re nice, but they’re entertainment. Faux fear, if you will. Besides, if I read this report correctly, the subject (identified as “SM”) was accompanied by scientists in every instance. No wonder she wasn’t afraid. Anyone who has seen a horror film in the last 40 years knows the first thing a creature does is destroy its creator. When I’m in the movie theater I don’t even start to get worried until at least 3 scientists and a security guard are dead.
Researchers – the next time you do a study like this, I hope you’ll bring more theater into it. Yes, take your subject on a group tour of the darkened haunted house. But drop off one by one as she walks through. With each disappearance there should be a chop, or a scream, or the unmistakable roar of a chain saw. Splattering helps.
Or just observe her as she reads her children’s Facebook pages. Then we’ll see if it’s possible for a human to feel no fear!
I thanked Dr. Kyle for his expert opinion, but I’m inclined to think the study is accurate and the amygdala really is the fear center in humans. Which begs this question about getting an amygdalaectomy.
If you could have an operation that would leave you totally free of fear, would you?