Misophonia Brains “Light Up” With Triggers
Sufferers of Misophonia — those for whom certain sounds are daily torture — have long asked if this condition is real or imagined. While it certainly feels real, they may be diagnosed with a psychological disorder (anxiety) or told to stop trying to get attention, and that trigger sounds aren’t a problem for everyone else. Either one of these approaches creates doubt and insecurity in someone with Misophonia. People question if Misophonia is real – parents, siblings, psychologists, doctors — the sufferer themselves. Even professionals, without the proper evidence or background, question the authenticity of a condition.
New research has just been published in which functional MRIs illustrated the hot spots of Misophonia activity in the brain. Researchers in England have recorded that those with Misophonia have increased brain activity, and heart rate and galvanic skin responses when hearing trigger sounds. These changes are not only quantitative (greater reactions) but also qualitative. Several areas in the brain which control emotional responses — such as the anterior insula cortex (AIC), amygdala (fight or flight determination), and hippocampus (memory) — are all highly activated in those with Misophonia when they hear trigger sounds, much more so than those without it when they listen to unpleasant sounds. Also, those with Misophonia did not have that same, intense reaction to other unpleasant, but non-trigger, sounds. Researchers noted that a control mechanism used to suppress emotional reactions may not be functioning properly, thus reducing the ability to control negative reactions to trigger sounds.
Professionals are starting to determine that Misophonia is a separate, distinct syndrome which does not necessarily overlap other anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Much more research is needed, but we have had a major advancement with these findings: Misophonia is not made up and it is not volitional. But while the reality of the disorder is one thing, the approach to management is another. Identification is step one. Step two — let’s try to take control of the disorder.