Magnetic Stimulation of the Brain Can Beat the Fear of Heights

Many people have a fear of heights. However, it can be overcome with the help of modern medical technology. One of them is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Its essence is to stimulate the cerebral cortex using short magnetic impulses.

A team of medical scientists at the University Hospital of the German city of Würzburg has published the results of research, during which, using TMS and virtual reality, it was possible to minimize anxiety disorders of the psyche of the subjects, including the fear of heights.

TMS works pointwise, that is, by acting on certain parts of the brain. Depending on the frequency, the brain will either be excited or inhibited (inhibited). TMS equipment was originally created as a tool for studying the functions of various parts of the brain, but later it began to be used to treat some brain disorders, in particular, migraines, depression, and as a means of teaching visually impaired people to orient themselves in space.

Previous research has shown that by acting on the frontal lobes with TMS, it is possible to reduce the "general" feeling of anxiety. The next stage is to reduce the “specific” anxiety, namely, the fear of heights.

39 patients suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights) were divided into 2 groups, including the control group, which received sham TMS. For 20 minutes, the groups were under real influence or imitation of TMS on various parts of the brain, followed by immersion in virtual reality, which simulated high altitude.

After two trials, the TMS group showed a decrease in anxiety and acrophobic symptoms compared to the control group that did not receive TMS. The effect of the therapy is fixed and continues to act even months after stimulation.

Now the team of researchers intends to study the effectiveness of TMS in the fight against other persistent fears, next in line is arachnophobia (fear of spiders).