Fear of spiders cured in minutes, claim Univ. Amsterdam scientists

Tarantula (Photo: PavelSI/Wikimedia CommonsTarantula (Photo: PavelSI/Wikimedia Commons

Two scientists from the University of Amsterdam can cure arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, within two minutes using a combination of a beta blocker and an encounter with a large tarantula, RTL Nieuws reports.

Scientists Merel Kindt and Marieke Soeter performed their experiment on 45 people. Fifteen of them got a 40mg propranolol pill and a brief encounter with a spider, 15 were given a placebo and encounter and the other 15 were given just the pill. The participants' fear of spiders were tested again after 3 months and after a year. The scientists found that the combination of the beta blocker and spider worked the best.

The beta blocker works as a "forgetting agent", Kindt explained to the broadcaster. First they invoke the fear by handing the participant a spider and then gave them the pill. "We used a fist-sized tarantula. By coming closer and closer to the spider, the memory trace is opened to be reprogrammed. After the encounter the propranolol is administered and you can go home."

The pill alone will not work, according to Kindt, who is a clinical psychologist. The confrontation with the spider makes it possible to influence the connection between spider and fear very precisely.

The researchers are no turning their attention to targeting other fears. This includes fear of dogs or snakes, but also vertigo, panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.