Arachnophobia was completely and instantly cured in a 44-year old man, during brain surgery to control violent seizures. Before the surgery, the man was terrified of spiders, a fear which completely disappeared after a small part of his brain was removed by doctors.

Seizures suddenly developed in the male subject, and he was examined by doctors. Health care professionals found abnormalities in his amygdala, the portion of the brain which controls fear. This structure, shaped like an almond, is just over an inch long, and about one inch in diameter. Doctors decided his amygdala needed to be removed to treat the debilitating seizures, and the operation was deemed to be a success.

The arachnophobia was likely controlled by the section of the amygdala that was removed by doctors. Little is known about how fears may be organized within that brain structure, so it is not yet possible to remove specific phobias in people who suffer from debilitating apprehensions.

The amygdala is located well within the brain, so even if specific sections of the structure could be tied to certain phobias, surgery would be impractical. However, sections of the center are often removed during surgery to control seizures. Researchers hope to study these cases to track if arachnophobia is cured in other patients undergoing the procedure.

Before surgery, the patient was unable to kill spiders by hand. Instead, he would "freeze" the insects using hair spray, and then vacuum up the sticky bodies. Sometimes, he would even try to kill the creatures by throwing a tennis ball at them. Now, he finds arachnids fascinating, easily handing the tiny animals.

Not all fears in the patient vanished. Although his crippling fear of spiders first subsided, then turned to fascination, he retained a fear of public speaking. Researchers believe this may be due to arachnophobia representing a fight-or-flight response, while social phobias are more conditioned.

Another change observed by the patient after surgery was a gut-wrenching feeling when he heard music - something he had never before encountered. That feeling eventually went away, allowing the subject to once again listen happily to songs. He has asked not to take part in any further tests or examinations.

Phobias affected millions of Americans, and are most often treated by slowly introducing the patient to the fear, little by little, in a process called exposure therapy. Some researchers are looking at ways phobias can be treated using a medicine designed to treat high blood pressure. Others are studying how human brains can be stimulated to remove memories which can trigger phobias.

The case study of the patient cured of arachnophobia through brain surgery was detailed in the journal Neurocase

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