Misophonia, which literally translates to hatred of sound, is a rare condition that causes affected individuals to have severe emotional reactions to common sounds, such as chewing or tapping. For a long time, medical professionals did not know what caused people to have such adverse reactions, but recent research may have revealed the reason. According to The Guardian, research from Newcastle University illustrated that the brains of those with misophonia are wired differently. The portion of the brain that processes sound has stronger connectivity to the premotor cortex, which is responsible for the movements of the mouth and throat.
About the Research
A team of researchers from Newcastle University performed brain scans of those with misophonia in an effort to discover the underlying cause of the rare condition. They played triggering sounds for a group of patients with misophonia, as well as a control group of individuals without the condition.
Upon analyzing the brain scans, the researchers found that the region of the brain involved in throat and mouth movements were more active in those with misophonia. This portion of the brain also has a stronger connection to the part of the brain responsible for processing sounds. Essentially, certain sounds can trigger the motion area of the brain, despite the fact that there is no motion. It makes impacted individuals feel as if a sound is physically invading their bodies.
One of the researchers, Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar, stated that they believe the mirror neuron system is activated in the brain upon hearing trigger sounds. Mirror neurons supposedly fire when one performs an action, but also when we watch others perform an action. This does not mean that affected individuals begin to actually copy an action that they hear, but it can set off something called “hyper-mirroring.” When this happens, people begin to mimic their trigger sound.
While further research is necessary to confirm these findings, they could be very helpful in treating misophonia in the future. Now, medical professionals know they should focus on not only the portions of the brain that process sound but the portions of the brain responsible for motor as well. In addition, the mirror neuron system in the brain can be trained, possibly even to break the link between a triggering sound and the emotional response.
Misophonia is a rare, chronic condition that causes people to have intense, involuntary emotional reactions to certain sounds. It literally translates to hatred of sound. These reactions can change in severity and type of response. Some people experience fear, disgust, anger, anxiety, and other severe emotional reactions. Other symptoms include aggression, social isolation, depression, feelings of skin-crawling, and suicidal thoughts. Regardless of the response one has, this condition can be very limiting in social and professional settings. Medical professionals do not know what causes this condition, but they do know that it is a problem with the brain rather than the ears. In terms of triggers, they are usually repetitive sounds like chewing, pen clicking, or tapping. Misophonia is often misdiagnosed as bipolar, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it is not officially recognized as a mental illness, making diagnosis even more difficult. In terms of treatment, one should try to avoid triggers if possible. Sound therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, stress relief, and progressive muscle relaxation are also used in treatment.