No Fear

Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010 ( 23 moms have responded )

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Everybody's afraid of something, right? Everybody, except for a woman known only as SM. She had an extremely rare condition that's destroyed the fear center in her brain ... and now she's scared of nothing.

Sounds fun, right? Researchers have been following her for more than 20 years and have tried all kinds of things with her ... watching scary movies, going to a haunted house (which she called exciting, like riding a roller coaster), and even taking her to a pet store to hold big snakes. They actually made her leave when she went to go pet a tarantula. And think about all the stuff she can do because she isn't ever scared ... skydive, climb mountains, mix stripes and patterns ...

But the fact is, our fear response is key to keeping us alive and safe.

Think about it; fear keeps you from walking into traffic or talking to sketchy strangers. SM narrowly escaped death when someone attacked her on a park bench. He'd called over to her and she just walked right to him, and didn't even flinch when he held a knife to her throat.

Think about driving, for example. If you suddenly realize you're tearing down the road, you'll instinctively slow down out of fear of an accident (or a ticket). If you had no fear, your only reaction would be "whee!" Or imagine the way a toddler will head right for the treacherous stairs, or march right up to a strange dog; it's because their fear reactions haven't fully developed yet.

In other words, fear gets a bad rap. It can hold you back when it's excessive or irrational, like with a phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder. But most of the time, being a big wussy wuss will save your life.

Can you imagine? No fear AT ALL. What could be the ramifications of this? More importantly...what could the military do with this? And no I'm not putting on my tinfoil hat thank you very much :P

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Kate CP - posted on 12/19/2010

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Okay, if the guy had said "I'm going to slit your throat" and she still wandered over that would have been just stupid. But the thought "I shouldn't go down that dark alley because something could attack me" won't occur to her because she had no fear.

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Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010

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"It's very striking that she has only a rational response, not a physiological one," said Dr. Jon Shaw, professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "The body is not prepared for a physiological response because the amygdala has been taken out of the loop."

[deleted account]

If someone were to say to you 'come here I want to kill you.' You may not be afraid of death, but does that mean you WANT to die? You're still smart enough to know whether or not you want to die, right?

Like speeding crazily down the road.... you may not be afraid of crashing or getting a ticket, but it's still against the law and is wrong.

Do you lose morals and common sense when you lose the ability to feel fear? Doesn't make sense. Maybe it's just cuz I HAVE some fear though...... ??

Carolyn - posted on 12/19/2010

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you can be without fear, but still understand recklessness, danger and risk to others. there are more than enough campaigns about the dangers of drunk driving, speeding ... etc... to understand the danger it presents to others and how stupid it is. just because you do not fear the consequences doesnt mean you dont understand them.

you can still comprehend right from wrong in most circumstances with or with out the presence of fear.

fear also isnt the only indicator that something may not be safe. there are so many other variables and factors that you can take into consideration using logic to understand the risks. you may not be afraid of the outcome of taking those risks, but it doesnt mean you dont understand them.

im sorry , but i dont buy " im not scared of anything" as an excuse for ignorance and stupidity

im pretty sure if you pulled a gun on this woman and told her if she came closer you would blow her head off, that she would understand , and not come closer... even though she may not be afraid....


just like if she knew dude had a knife and was gonna hold it to her throat, LOGIC would have kicked ... she may not have been afraid.. but im pretty sure she wouldnt have been stupid.

Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010

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Neurology researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City have been studying the woman for a number of years because she is one of very few people known to have damage to the amygdala on both sides of her brain. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure that studies have shown plays a role in processing fear and other emotions, though experts say its exact role is unclear.

The damage to S.M.'s amygdala was caused by another rare condition, Urbach-Wiethe disease, which caused calcium deposits to form and cause lesions on the amygdala.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNew...

Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010

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Exactly. Just like they said about her driving recklessly, she views it like an amusement park.

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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Yeah, I guess I don't see that as fear inducing, you would think, or I do, that cognitive thought would come into play.

Kate CP - posted on 12/19/2010

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But that's the point, Dana. She lacks the emotion of fear and therefor the "what ifs" don't really go through her head. Those thoughts are induced by fear.

[deleted account]

sorry....why would she steer clear of him just because he had a knife. She wouldn't be fearful so when he said come here logically she would have no reason to not go over. Fear didn't tell her its not safe

....fast typing...im in the middle of housework :P

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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Well, that would just be stupid. She's not stupid, she just lacks the emotion of fear.

Kate CP - posted on 12/19/2010

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I think her point is even if she KNEW he had a knife she would more than likely still gone over to him because she didn't have the fear of "What will he DO with that knife?" in her head.

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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My bell is not going off because I have no clue what Julianne is trying to say. lol

[deleted account]

Why would she not wonder over if she knew he had a knife.Its not like she would be afraid he would rob her or anything.

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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Well, I'm sure if she knew he was going to pull a knife on her, she probably wouldn't have wandered over. I think the point of that was that she didn't flinch when he held the knife to her throat.

Kate CP - posted on 12/19/2010

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Well, look at what happened to the woman: she was attacked at knife point because she had no fear. She probably KNEW it wasn't that bright to wander over to some guy but she did it any way because her warning bells didn't go off.

I always tell women to listen to their gut...their intuition. This woman CAN'T. That's scary and sad. :/

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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Is it really though. I mean if you think about it, you still know something is dangerous you just don't have all those feeling getting in the way of your reaction to something dangerous.

[deleted account]

I'm not afraid of anything!
Lol actually i have a fear of zombies...:S and other small things.

If the military had the ability to take away fear....the solders would be super killers. I'd be scared shitless for the rest of my life if that happened.

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