A supersensitised brain connection has been identified in people who suffer from misophonia, an extreme reaction to ‘trigger’ sounds.
For the first time, researchers led by Newcastle University, have discovered increased connectivity in the brain between the auditory cortex and the motor control areas related to the face, mouth and throat.
Lead researcher Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, said: “Our findings indicate that for people with misophonia there is abnormal communication between the auditory and motor brain regions – you could describe it as a ‘supersensitised connection’.
“This is the first time such a connection in the brain has been identified for the condition.”
Misophonia, which means ‘hatred of sound’, is a condition in which sufferers experience intense and involuntary reactions to certain sounds made by other people, referred to as ‘trigger’ sounds. Trigger sounds are often the sound of someone chewing, breathing or speaking.
Their reaction is often extreme, and tends to consist of a combination of anger, disgust, fight-or-flight response, sometimes an urge to hurt the person making the sound or to leave the situation.
The condition is common, affecting anywhere between 6% to 20% of people. Those with the more severe forms can find themselves unable to tolerate family, work, public or social situations.
Previously, misophonia had been considered a disorder of sound processing.
Dr Kumar added: “Interestingly, some people with misophonia can lessen their symptoms by mimicking the action generating the trigger sound, which might indicate restoring a sense of control. Using this knowledge may help us to develop new therapies for people with the condition.”
Kumar S, Dheerendra P, Erfanian M, Benzaquén E, Sedley W, Gander PE, Lad M, Bamiou DE, Griffiths TD. The motor basis for misophonia. Journal of Neuroscience. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0261-21.2021