Most people felt annoyed at some point about other people’s heavy breathing, or their colleague repeatedly clicking his pen. However, some have adverse reactions to these sound triggers, to the point their bodies start to perceive them as genuine threats to one’s life, triggering the “fight or flight” response. A new survey that focuses on brain abnormalities could hold the key to the mystery. Neurologists call it misophonia, a disorder that stands at the core of intense hatred towards specific sounds, such as breathing, chewing, or repeated pen clicking.
Upon hearing one of these sounds, the patient’s body floods the patients’ muscles with adrenaline and prepares the individual for a “fight or flight” battle scenario. Tim Griffiths, study’s senior author hopes his team’s discovery will provide those who suffer from misophonia with some answers.
For their study, the team of researchers, led by Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at University College London and Newcastle University in the United Kingdom conducted brain scans on 20 people who were reportedly suffering from misophonia. For comparison purposes, the scientists also scanned the brains of 22 healthy individuals.
The scans revealed an abnormality in the misophonia patients’ emotional control mechanism. Hence, the researchers were able to conclude that upon hearing the aforementioned trigger sounds, the brains of the people that suffer from the condition go into overdrive. Furthermore, the scans also showed that the patient’s brain activity originates from a different connectivity pattern in the frontal lobe. According to the researchers, a healthy frontal lobe is responsible for suppressing abnormal reactions to specific sounds.
Most importantly, the trigger sounds not only induced a state of unease among people suffering from misophonia but also had physical effects on their bodies, as if the patients were trapped in a life or death scenario. Hence, the body would attempt to cool itself off through sweating and started to pump more oxygen-filled blood to the patients’ muscles, subsequently increasing their heart rate.
The researchers hope that these preliminary findings will only help them to better understand the condition and develop treatment for people with misophonia.
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