Sunday, 27 June 2010

Jab Away Your Phobia

It was reported in the press recently that scientists in Japan have developed an injection that will cure people of their phobias. They had trained some goldfish to connect a strong flashing light with receiving a mild electric shock. They were given a dose of a local anaesthetic called lidocaine and after this the fish no longer feared the flashing light. Apparently, the injection switches off the part of the brain that "learns" how to fear. The scientist in charge of the experiments, Dr Masayuki Yoshida of the University of Hiroshima, reportedly said that the fish had stable heart rates and were unable to learn to become afraid.

On the one hand it seems to me that if you just switch off the brain's ability to learn what to be afraid of then people will keep putting themselves into potentially deadly situations, like walking in front of cars. On the other hand what about if you have a phobia of needles? You will still need a therapist or other treatments to cure that first so what's the point?