Seizure Surgery Removes Man's Arachnophobia

Operation has a quite unintended consequence
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2014 9:42 AM CST
Seizure Surgery Removes Man's Arachnophobia
A man's fear of spiders was gone after surgery.   (AP Photo/Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

A man's surgery for seizures had an unexpected result: When he woke up, he was no longer scared of spiders. The 44-year-old used to kill spiders with hair spray and a vacuum; now, he's fine with letting them crawl all over him, Medical Daily reports. The reasons aren't clear, but it seems to have something to do with his amygdala, part of the brain which deals with fear. Parts of it were removed in the surgery to get rid of his seizures—which also disappeared after the operation.

Interestingly, other fears remained after the surgery, including the man's fear of public speaking. This could be because arachnophobia prompts a "quick-and-dirty panic response," whereas a fear of public speaking is a different, "more nuanced" kind of worry, an expert says. The surgery might only have operated on the "panic" pathway, the expert adds. On the downside, the surgery also temporarily removed the man's love for music: For a while, he was repulsed by tunes, especially one on a particular TV commercial, New Scientist reports. Fortunately, that revulsion faded; meanwhile, the man could now probably handle spiders hatching in his bananas. (More surgery stories.)

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