The person across the restaurant from you MUST be trying to draw attention to themselves. S/he is chewing so loudly it’s a wonder the whole restaurant isn’t staring at them in disgust. And don’t get me started on their breathing. Are they having an asthma attack? Why are the breaths so labored? It can’t possibly be due to the physical exertion required to mindlessly thumb through the newspaper for the last 20 minutes, pausing only to crinkle the pages. Right?
If your internal dialogue is anything like the above, you may be one of many people suffering from a genuine brain abnormality called Misophonia.
Misophonia, a disorder which means sufferers have a hatred of sounds such as eating, chewing, loud breathing or even repeated pen-clicking, was first acknowledged to be a condition in 2001.
The diagnosis of Misophonia in medicine has been widely debated in recent years as some believe sufferers are simply irritated easier. Now, new findings from researchers at U.K.’s Newcastle University have confirmed that people with Misophonia have a difference in their brain’s frontal lobe to non-sufferers.
In a recent report published in the journal Current Biology, scientists used brain imaging to identify changes in brain activity when a ‘trigger’ sound was heard in Misophonia sufferers. Their findings showed that those with the condition have an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. The researchers also found that trigger sounds could evoke a heightened physiological response, with increased heart rate and sweating.
For the study, researchers used an MRI to measure the brain activity of people with and without Misophonia as they listened to sounds strategically broken up into 3 categories:
- Neutral – rain, a busy café, water boiling
- Unpleasant – baby crying, person screaming
- Trigger – the sounds of breathing or eating.
Their findings showed that when presented with trigger sounds, those with Misophonia presented different results to those without the condition.
“I hope this will reassure sufferers,” Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, said in a press release. “I was part of the skeptical community myself until we saw patients in the clinic and understood how strikingly similar the features are.”
“For many people with Misophonia, this will come as welcome news as for the first time we have demonstrated a difference in brain structure and function in sufferers,” Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and the Wellcome Centre for NeuroImaging at University College London, added. “This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”
Next time you find yourself experiencing an internal or external reaction to common everyday sounds, try to objectively remove yourself from the situation. Does anyone else appear to be bothered by the guy across the restaurant chewing loudly and thumbing through a newspaper? If the answer is no, then perhaps you suffer from Misophonia.
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