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Snakes on the brain

Researchers delve into neural roots of courage

Researchers now can say what would happen in Samuel L. Jackson’s brain if he really were to confront snakes on a plane. In a terrifying sequel to that movie scenario, researchers convinced volunteers to bring a slithery serpent within centimeters of their heads while they lay trapped in a brain scanner.

The experiment, published June 24 in Neuron, allowed researchers to watch brain activity as people chose to quell their fear and bring the snake closer to their heads, offering a glimpse into the courageous brain. Understanding how the brain chooses to overcome fearful impulses may help scientists treat people with phobias, panic disorders or PTSD. 

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