This health video looks into ways to help people overcome heights.
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Jennifer Matthews: Not long ago, climbing to the top of a stadium would have been a nightmare for Beth Cox. Her fear of heights was paralyzing. She would sweat, shake and cry, like 5 percent of people who share her fear. Dr. Michael Davis. It really controls their life. They don't want to drive over bridges; they don't want to go up elevators; they don't want to fly in planes, and so forth. Jennifer Matthews: Beth chose virtual reality therapy. With a headset on, she sees a simulated glass elevator that takes her up. Studies show fear is centered in an area of the brain called the amygdala. It contains a protein that allows you to get over fear. As part of a study, Beth received D-cycloserine, a medication typically used for tuberculosis. Dr. Michael Davis: What we reasoned is that if we could actually make that protein work better, then maybe we could speed up this process of getting over being afraid. Jennifer Matthews: Early studies show it works. Dr. Michael Davis: What we found is that both a week later and three months later, that people who went back into the simulated glass elevator, that had the medication, were less fearful. Jennifer Matthews: How does a virtual world compare with real life? Beth put it to the test. Beth Cox: I've been 27 floors ... absolutely comfortable. Right now we're on 17, and I'm absolutely fine. Jennifer Matthews: And she has no problem leaning over to look down. But, she's not ready to go higher yet. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.