Before Milne, doctors didn't know that Parkinson's had a smell, but now it joins the ranks of diabetes (which smells sweet), liver dysfunction (which smells musty), and severe diarrhea (which smells like severe diarrhea). That's actually great news, because right now, the disorder can only be diagnosed after most of the neural damage has already occurred. With Milne's nose to the rescue, treatment could start a lot earlier and do a lot more good. Of course, she can't be in every hospital all the time, so scientists are working to create a definitive lab test based on her uncanny abilities. Yet despite having a nose that could save lives, Milne says that a lot of people specifically ask her not to sniff them.
A patient known only as "SM" suffers from a rare condition called Urbach-Wiethe, which results in a hardening of the amygdala -- the area in each cerebral hemisphere that governs, amongst other things, the fear response. In other words, Daredevil is (partially) real, and he's a middle-aged mother of three. To her children's burgeoning horror, it became apparent that SM was quite literally fearless. She would encounter a large snake and just ... pick it up. Found a spider? She'd pet it. Get mugged? No, thank you.
Yes, one time a would-be robber put a knife to her throat, and SM stared him down with such utter disdain that the attacker freaked out and let her go. And sure, that's how superheroes are made ... but also orphans.
Janulla/iStockThat little speck is the only thing keeping you from being a Steven-Seagal-esque action hero (besides self-delusion and about 60 pounds).
Urbach-Wiethe superheroes even have their own kryptonite: carbon dioxide. According to researchers, U-W only erases the fear from external threats, all of which are immediately reported to the amygdala. Internal threats, however, like inhaling and choking on carbon dioxide, send warning signals to other parts of the brain, which U-W sufferers do feel. So there you go -- handy knowledge in case you ever need to take down an invincible housewife.
Laura H shoots radiation at people for a living. Follow her on Twitter.
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