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Brain surgery stops seizures, fear of spiders

Medford said further research on the subject could be conducted without unnecessary invasive procedures.

By
Ben Hooper

BRIGHTON, England, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- British doctors said a man who underwent brain surgery to get rid of seizures awoke to find he had also lost his crippling fear of spiders.

Dr. Nick Medford, the man's observing physician at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and co-author of the study published in the Neurocase journal, said the 44-year-old man suffered from severe arachnophobia before undergoing surgery on his amygdala -- a portion of the brain partially responsible for handling fear -- to stop his recurring seizures.

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The study, titled Abolition of lifelong specific phobia: a novel therapeutic consequence of left mesial temporal lobectomy, said the man reported he was no longer afraid of spiders after the surgery.

Medford said the man instead found spiders fascinating and could hold a living arachnid without fear.

The researchers said the man's fear may have been stored in neural pathways in the part of the amygdala that was removed to halt the man's seizures.

Medford said further research on the subject could be conducted without unnecessary invasive procedures.

"It's not uncommon for people to have temporal lobe surgery for severe epilepsy," he said. "And arachnophobia is supposed to be reasonably common. So we might be able to test people for that phobia, or any other kind, before and after surgery."

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