Misophonia, also known as “select sound sensitivity syndrome” or “sound rage”, is a condition where certain sounds such as eating or breathing cause negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions. This neurological disorder is not well understood but new brain scans done via MRI show that those who suffer from it have an overactive anterior insular cortex, the part of the brain that combines our senses with our emotions.
Volunteers were put into an MRI and played a variety of sounds. These included neutral noises, such as the sound of rain, sounds considered unpleasant such as screaming and the patient’s trigger sounds. The overactivity seen in the brains of those who suffer with misophonia only started when the trigger noises were played. The main emotion reported in sufferers is anger, described as starting as a normal response but then leading into an excessive emotional response.
Even though the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed through behavioural techniques. These include using ear plugs and practicing breathing exercises often used to treat certain types of anxiety. It is currently described as a rare condition, however as it was only diagnosed in the population recently, it is not yet clear how widespread the issue is.
The hope, as with many neurological disorders, is that further understanding of the condition, thought to be linked to the dysfunction of mechanisms that control anger levels, could lead to treatment.