Many people will be familiar with the sense of anger that comes with hearing someone loudly chewing their way through a meal, or the frustration of someone rustling a packet of crisps within ear shot. If this sounds familiar, you might be part of a large group of people suffering from Misophonia: a disorder which leads sufferers to become furious when they hear sounds like heavy breathing and loud eating.
Misophonia was first identified as a condition in 2001, however until recently there has been some debate amongst scientists as to whether the disorder can be classed as a genuine medical condition. New research, led by a team based at Newcastle University, has shown that the brains of those with Misophonia have a difference in their frontal lobe to those who do not suffer with the disorder.
The research involved studying the reactions to various sounds of 42 different people, 20 people with the condition and 22 without. The two groups were played a variety of noises whilst in an MRI machine, with researchers monitoring the results. The participants were played neutral sounds, generally unpleasant sounds (for example screaming) and specific ‘trigger’ sounds.
The published report in Current Biology stated that scans of Misophonia sufferers revealed a change in brain activity when the ‘trigger sounds’ were played.
It also seems to be clear that the overriding response was anger, with the response going into overdrive upon hearing the trigger sounds.
Currently, there is no cure for Misophonia, however researchers will be hoping that these new discoveries will lead the way to effective forms of treatment in the future.
Tim Griffiths, Professor of Neurology at Newcastle University and UCL was skeptical himself before the latest research was done, “I hope this will reassure sufferers” he 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”.
I’m not sure about you, but I am going to be making a concerted effort to not chew so loudly from now on.