By Darlene Villanova

Are you secretly plotting to throw a punch the next time your co-worker noisily snarks down a bag of chips? Your feelings may now be justified! Those who are driven to vengeful thoughts over repeated clicking pens, chewing, slurping, tapping, heavy breathing, sneezing, and coughing; this may not be your fault or the offender’s; you may have misophonia. 

According to findings published in “Current Biology” these repetitive sounds and others can cause rage in some people, and now scientists have discovered the neurological link responsible for this peculiar condition.

Discovered in 2000, these unreasonable feelings were found to affect approximately 20 percent of the population. Although previously thought to be associated with obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, scientist from Newcastle University in the UK have found evidence via changes in the brain that appear to account for this anger response. It is now their hope to consider misophonia as a single disorder. (Australasian Psychiatry)

A test group of 20 volunteers who claimed they suffered the affliction were subjected to  a series of  known repetitive trigger sounds and were found to have neurological and physiological responses when compared to a control group.

The test group suffered significantly increased heart rates and skin conductivity; a phenomenon considered to be one of the two main dimensions of an emotional response. Brain scans also revealed a marked change in neurology with increased activity in various regions of the brain, including the frontal lobe and the anterior insular cortex (AIC) responsible for managing emotional experience. The AIC also plays a role in integrating signals from our world with information inside the body.

All evidence suggests that those with misophonia have brains that struggle to control the spread of messages associated with certain sounds causing the body to react to sounds with rage as it spreads through different parts of the brain associated with ‘fight or flight’ responses.

Misophonia suffers may have little to rejoice in as there is no fix for this affliction but can have peace of mind as they push their earbuds a bit deeper to get through their day, and their co-worker’s clicking pen.

This research was published in Current Biology

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