The neural correlates of claustrofobia are still unknown. A recent study tried unsuccessfully to map the neural responses to claustrophobic stimuli of participants in an fMRI scanner. Fifty severely claustrophobic participants were asked to lie motionless in a small, confined, dark, cramped space with a giant magnet surrounding their body and head, but the methods section of the conference abstract notes that “No participants were included in the final analysis”.
Team leader Randall Thompson is disappointed by the lack of results. “It’s a pity that all our participants ran away screaming before the first scan, because we didn’t even get to the experimental manipulation: Showing them videos of collapsing caves, the insides of coffins and stalled elevators. But I have good hopes for our new, improved protocol: We will be strapping the participants down very tightly so that they are nice and comfortable.”
Thompson says he is undeterred by his lack of success and is not considering using other neuroimaging techniques. “fMRI gives the clearest, nicest findings, so we are confident we are on the right track. We have future plans for many other important research questions, including studying the neural correlates of headbanging, ligyrophobia and fear of magnets.”