There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Also spiders. [originally posted Monday, December 20, 2010]
I read an interesting article the other day. It seems this woman (only identified as SM) isn’t afraid of anything. I mean that when she’s exposed to things that normally scare people (spiders, threats) she barely feels anything. She has been in violent situations, scary situations (domestic violence, held up at knifepoint), but still isn’t afraid. The question is why.
Part 1: The Disease
SM fascinates the doctors studying her. Due to Urbach-Wiethe, an extremely rare genetic disorder (there are only three hundred known cases in medical literature), her amygdala is damaged. The disease causes physical symptoms like thickening of the skin and mucous membranes, and can cause epilepsy, attacks of rage and mental retardation. There are other neurological symptoms, too, including schizophrenia and mood disorders. I think it’s safe to say that the neurological phenomena occur based on where the UW affects the brain.
Urbach-Weithe disease is caused by (according to this article) “a defect in the metabolism of basement membrane collagen.” For everyone who isn’t a doctor, the basement membrane according to Medterms.com is “A thin membrane upon which is posed a single layer of cells…made up of proteins held together by type IV collagen.” It’s located directly under the epidermis, hence the reason it’s called “basement.” In UW disease, the basement membrane doesn’t regenerate (metabolize) properly, resulting in lipids (fats) being created throughout the basement membrane. This results in a lot of problems in the skin, mucous membranes, eyes and even the brain. The disease is usually detected in children because of reports that their voice is hoarse and cuts and scrapes don’t heal properly. The disease causes both; the hoarseness is caused by the calcification of the vocal cords among other things, while the scars are caused by improper healing.
The calcification builds up and affects other parts of the body: the eyes, scalp, and of course, the brain.
So now we know how the brain is altered. Tune in tomorrow as we continue to probe the mystery of the fearless woman.
I don't think I did a very good job writing the article (forgive me! It was only my third month in my blog) but it was still an interesting subject. If you check the old post, you'll see that there are only four comments, (I love that two of them are from William and Kathy, who I'm still blogging buddies with). But this is indeed my most viewed page. If you just have to see the rest of what I wrote about fear, here are links to parts two and three.