A Look at the Science Behind Misophonia

For many years, people living with misophonia struggled to be taken seriously by the medical profession, and patients listing their symptoms were mostly ignored or even laughed at. Even in later years, when attitudes to newer disorders became more progressive, scientists often saw misophonia as a symptom of other conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

What We Know

Misophonia may well have a genetic component, but as it doesn’t generally appear until the sufferer is at least 9 or 10 years old, a lot of research focused on it being a learned behavior; perhaps the result of associating a particular noise with an extremely traumatic incident in childhood or early adolescence.

To some extent that makes sense, especially considering the fact that a lot of noise triggers are linked to particular people or situations, and that a full on attack mimics a ‘fight or flight’ response to danger. However, this is not an entirely satisfying explanation as the therapies recommended to deal with such issues often fail to produce long term changes.

New Research Offer Hope

UK scientists have now discovered that regardless of the initial cause, there is evidence of changes to the brain which explain the unusual, and generally always excessive, response some people have to their trigger sounds. Basically, in subjects who identified themselves as having misophonia they identified heightened activity in the anterior insular cortex – the area of our brain which matches up emotions and senses.

Crossed Wires

As well as working in overdrive, this section of the brain seemed to be connecting to other sections of the brain in a different way too, as if the wires in an electrical outlet had been crossed randomly, producing a functional but unpredictable electricity supply which surges when it come across triggers. Consequently, mild and quite normal irritation becomes over the top anger. [Interestingly, anger seemed to be the most common emotion to be amplified, while others such as repulsion or disgust were there, but less marked.]

These exciting new discoveries offer fresh hope to those who currently have their lives restricted by misophonia. As research continues and we come to understand more about the causes of this change to the brain, there may soon be some effective treatment available to cure people of this condition for good.

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