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Howard G. Smith, M.D. is a former radio medical editor and talk show host in the Boston Metro area.  His "Medical Minute" of health and wellness news and commentary was a regular weekday feature on WBZ-AM, WRKO-AM, and WMRE-AM.   His popular two-way talk show, Dr. Howard Smith OnCall, was regularly heard Sunday morning and middays on WBZ.

More recently, Dr. Smith has adopted the 21st century technology of audio and video podcasting as conduits for the short health and wellness reports, HEALTH NEWS YOU SHOULD USE.  Many of these have video versions, and they may be found on his YouTube page:

Trained at Harvard Medical School and a long-time faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital, he practiced Pediatric Otolaryngology for 40 years in Boston, Southern California, and in central Connecticut.

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Please note that the news, views, commentary, and opinions that Dr. Smith provides are for informational purposes only.  Any changes that you or members of your family contemplate making to lifestyle, diet, medications, or medical therapy should always be discussed beforehand with personal physicians who have been supervising your care.

Apr 5, 2019


Do you cringe at the thought of looking down from bridge or tall building, going up in a balloon, or parasailing?  Are you afraid of falling even if you are only up on a chair?  Some caution makes sense, but if you have a pathologic fear that limits your life choices then you probably suffer from acrophobia or the extreme, irrational phobia about height.   

From 2 to 5% of us have acrophobia, and twice as many women as men suffer from it.  It can be extremely dangerous if an affected person develops a panic attack and becomes so agitated that she or he cannot safely get down.

Dutch researchers developed a VR app to help acrophobics control their fears using cognitive behavioral therapy without the use of formal psychotherapy.  The app called ZeroPhobia, available on the iOS and Google Play app stores for $14, works with your smartphone and cardboard goggles.

The neuroscientists studied this app in a trial involving nearly 200 subjects.  Half were treated with 6 animated modules over 3 weeks and half were not.  The treated group experienced a significant reduction in their fears.

The app provides individual self-help at home for a reasonable price.  The theory behind this type of exposure therapy is that it triggers hippocampal extinction neurons which suppress undesirable memories.

If you have fear of heights, you may want to try the VR app.  If you want save a few bucks, check out the wonderful high altitude 2D YouTube videos that will also help you fight your fears!

Tara Donker, Ilja Cornelisz, Chris van Klaveren, Annemieke van Straten, Per Carl-bring, Pim Cuijpers, Jean-Louis van Gelder. Effectiveness of Self-guided App-Based Virtual Reality Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Acrophobia. JAMA Psychiatry, 2019; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0219

Anthony F. Lacagnina, Emma T. Brockway, Chelsea R. Crovetti, Francis Shue, Meredith J. McCarty, Kevin P. Sattler, Sean C. Lim, Sofia Leal Santos, Christine A. Denny, Michael R. Drew. Distinct hippocampal engrams control extinction and relapse of fear memory. Nature Neuroscience, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41593-019-0361-z

#Acrophobia #heights #VR #selfhelp