Misophonia: A True Hatred For Certain Sounds

Brilliance | Dec. 14, 2017

You're casually chomping away on some potato chips at your desk when you feel a pair of eyes giving you a death stare. Apparently you're being too noisy, because your co-worker is outraged. It seems like she's being unreasonable, but that may not be the case. People who have misophonia, or a "hatred of sound," suffer from an actual disorder.

Some Brains Can't Even

If you react with anger or disgust to certain trigger sounds, such as chewing, slurping, heavy breathing, snoring, sniffling, foot tapping, and typing, you might suffer from misophonia. Once coined a condition, new research has misophonia considered an actual disorder.

In February 2017, a team of scientists lead by Newcastle University in the U.K. took brains scans of people with misophonia. When researchers played the trigger sounds, the subjects experienced "hyperactivity" and "abnormal functional connectivity" in the medial frontal, medial, parietal, and temporal regions of their brains. Some subjects also experienced an increased heart rate and sweating. Their study suggests that people with misophonia experience dramatic emotional and physical responses to commonly occurring sounds. The study does note that more research must be done to decide whether misophonia is a cause or consequence of atypical interoception.

Giving A Voice To The Annoyed

People with misophonia traditionally haven't received much sympathy from science, but these findings go a long way. Tim Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, admitted in a press release that he was once part of the skeptical community himself, until he saw patients in the clinic and "understood how strikingly similar the features are." Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, with the same universities, emphasized the importance of this study in the same press releases: "This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder." Basically, that coworker's rage is the real deal. Maybe eat your potato chips somewhere else.

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