Imagine feeling angry or upset whenever you hear a certain everyday sound. It's a condition called misophonia, and we know little about its causes.
Now there's evidence from reserchers at Newcastle University that misophonics show distinctive brain activity whenever they hear their trigger sounds, a finding that could help devise coping strategies and treatments.
The condition was first given the name misophonia in 2000, but until 2013, there had only been two case studies published.
The Newcastle University team, UK, carried out a series of tests on 20 volunteers with a severe form of misophonia, as well as 22 people who don't have it.
Both groups listened to neutral noises, like the sound of rain; unpleasant sounds, such as a baby crying; and sounds that were triggers for the misophonics, such as chewing or breathing noises.
While both groups reacted to the neutral and unpleasant sounds in a similar way, the misophonic group experienced increased heart rates and skin conductance - both signs of the body's fight-or-flight response - when they heard trigger sounds.
These findings suggest that the systems that normally influence what we pay attention to, and respond to emotionally, are disrupted in people with misophonia.
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