Many of us may get irritated with certain innocuous sounds, such as someone repeatedly chewing loudly, tapping on tabletops, clicking their pens or popping the bubbles in plastic bubble-wraps. While these sounds are no doubt annoying, to people suffering from a condition called misophonia these same sounds could be utterly unbearable.
New research now suggests that brain abnormalities may explain why people with misophonia have such an intense hatred of specific sounds.
For their study, researchers conducted brain scans of 20 people with misophonia and compared it with brain scans of 22 healthy people. They found that among those with the condition, brain scans showed an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism that puts their brains into overdrive when they hear trigger sounds.
The scans also revealed that brain activity in people with the disorder originates from a different connectivity pattern in the frontal lobe of their brain, which is linked to normally suppressing abnormal reaction to sounds. In addition, the researchers found that trigger sounds had physical effects, such as increased heart rate and sweating in people with misophonia.
The findings may eventually help scientists to find treatments for misophonia and prompt others to look for similar changes in the brain in other disorders associated with ‘abnormal emotional reactions’. Researchers also hope that in future it would be possible to identify the brain signature of the trigger sounds and use it for treatments, such as through neuro-feedback, where people can self-regulate their reactions by looking at what kind of brain activity is being produced.