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The New York Times (12/17, Bhanoo, http://tinyurl.com/fearamygdala) reportsIn the 1930s, researchers discovered that when a certain part of monkeys’ brains was removed, the animals became fearless.  Now, scientists have confirmed that a missing amygdala results in similar behavior in humans, according to a study in the journal Current Biology. Patient SM, because of a rare condition called lipoid proteinosis, has holes where her amygdala would normally reside. Researchers found that she, like the monkeys, has no fear of creatures like snakes and spiders, which ordinarily alarm most people.  SM put her life at risk several times.  In one instance, she walked through a park alone at night and was attacked by a man with a knife. The following day, she walked through the same park again.   Shw was exposed  to snakes and spiders at a pet store, shown clips of horror movies like The Shining and The Blair Witch Project, and taken through a haunted house in a former sanatorium.   SM’s fear response was nonexistent.   What’s more, she “relished cuddling snakes and had to be stopped from reaching for a tarantula.”   Understanding how the mind of a patient like SM works could help researchers develop therapies for individuals who express excessive amounts of fear, like war veterans.

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