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Can’t stand some sounds? Science knows why

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

Intolerance to sounds like someone eating and some others that people make in everyday life may be caused by an overactivation of the mirror neuron system, according to scientists.

The trigger for people with misophonia – meaning hatred of sound – is usually oral sounds: of someone chewing, breathing, or speaking, that is, related to the activity of the mouth or throat.

Misphony can trigger intense physical or emotional reactions that others might consider exaggerated. The reaction can range from a slight feeling of disgust and anxiety to panic and urge to leave the situation. It is thought to affect between 6% and 20% of people.

The misophonia can trigger intense physical or emotional reactions that others might consider exaggerated. The reaction can range from a mild feeling of disgust and anxiety to panic and an urge to leave the situation. It is believed to affect between 6% and 20% of people.

Until now, misophonia was considered a sound processing disorder. However, the new study suggests that there is a type of abnormal communication between the auditory cortex and the areas of the ventral premotor cortex that are responsible for the movement of the face, mouth, and throat.

“Our results indicate that in people with misophonia there is an abnormal communication between the auditory and motor regions of the brain, which could be described as a supersensitized connection,” says lead author Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar from Newcastle University.

He added that it is the first time that such a connection has been identified in the brain for this disease.

Furthermore, the scientists found a similar communication pattern between the visual and motor regions. That is, misophonia can also be triggered by something visual.

“This led us to believe that this communication activates something called a ‘mirror system‘, which helps us process movements made by other individuals by activating our own brain in a similar way, as if we were doing that movement ourselves,” Kumar said.

These nerve cells are responsible for faster learning through imitation, especially in the early stages of life. Mirror neuron disruption is considered a possible cause of some neurological disorders, such as those on the autism spectrum.

Although the activation of motor neurons does not cause people with misophonia to start chewing or swallowing, it does cause them to experience discomfort, probably related to an alteration in their sense of body control, the scientists believe.

Dr. Kumar says that some people with misophonia can reduce their symptoms by mimicking the action that sound generates, which may help them regain a sense of control.

“Using this knowledge can help us develop new therapies for people with this disease,” he concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Image Credit: iStock

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