The brain area linked to inhibiting emotions or fear, called the prefrontal cortex, showed lots of activity minutes after therapy. However, six months later, that brain area became significantly less active when participants viewed spider photos. "They were still not afraid of spiders, but this particular region of the brain reacted differently," Haunter said during a telephone interview.
The researchers could also predict which participants would gain the most from therapy by looking at the extrastriate cortex, a brain region linked to visual perception and how the brain interprets images. The higher the activity in that area minutes after therapy, the best behavioral progress was seen six months later.
While a lot of people may be at least a little afraid of spiders, to meet the criteria for a specific spider phobia, Hauner says that fear must interfere with your life. For instance, those with a spider phobia may leave a dorm room or other living area for days after spotting a spider there; or they might avoid outdoor activities for fear of contact with a spider.
The results are detailed this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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