By Jessica Pupo
A recent study has finally explained the reason why some people experience extreme rage or disgust upon hearing everyday sounds like chewing or breathing.
Prior to this discovery, many were skeptical and believed that the reaction was an exaggeration without a legitimate cause. The condition, called misophonia, refers to when negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. These noises, called trigger sounds, are commonly associated with eating and drinking, as well as repetitive sounds such as pen clicking or a clock ticking.
Misophonia sufferers don’t simply find the noises annoying; but rather they have an extreme negative fight-or-flight reaction. Usually this reaction is an emotional response of anger going into overdrive. However, the effect of hearing trigger sounds is not only an emotional one, but also cause a heightened physiological response, such as sweating and increased heart rate.
This new study, published in Current Biology, discovered that sufferers of misophonia have structural differences in the areas of their brains tasked with regulating emotions. They found a difference between the frontal lobe of misophonia sufferers and non sufferers. Through brain imaging, researchers found out that an abnormality in the emotional control mechanism of misophonia sufferers causes the intense reaction upon hearing trigger sounds.
Dr. Sukbinder Kumar, one of the study’s researchers, said that for people with misophonia “the trigger sounds evoked much larger activity in a part of the brain called anterior insula cortex,” the region mostly involved in processing emotions. Since this is the first study to provide conclusive evidence of this condition’s legitimacy, it’s not yet clear whether any treatment will be available. For misophonia sufferers, this study provides an explanation for a lifelong question.