Friday, 17 December 2010

No fear

A woman from Iowa has no fear, because she has damage to her Amygdala. For those of you who did not study the anatomy of the brain, that is a chunk of grey matter deep in your brain. There are two amydaloid bodies, one on each side a few inches back from your eyes. It has been known for some time that it is associated with emotional learning.

Following the press reports we find that this woman has no fear and apparently as a result has been in several life threatening escapades, from which we are told she is lucky to have emerged alive.

So what this tells us is that being fearful has survival advantages, it is OK to be scared. Actually, that is pretty obvious, I guess. If being scared had no purpose, it is hard to see how it would have survived as a human trait.

I am reminded of that little poem by Piet Hein, (he called them grooks).

To be brave is to behave

bravely when your heart is faint.

So you can be really brave

only when you really ain't.

There is speculation in several of the reports that this knowledge might somehow lead to a cure for fear, or possibly for PTSD. You have to love our media; first they tell us the woman is lucky to be alive and that having no fear has almost killed her. So what do they conclude? That a drug to get rid of fear would be a good idea. Can I suggest that it ought to be tried out on reporters and editors first?

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