Misophonia, a disorder where sounds (and sometimes visuals) cause a severe aversive reaction for sufferers, has existed for the past several years without much scientific attention. That has changed. While misophonia was most notably coined in 2001 by Jastreboff and Jastreboff, science has remained relatively dark on the causes and underlying mechanisms of the disorder.
Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar (Ph.D.) has brought world-wide attention to the lesser-known disorder misophonia through his study that could very-well be considered a break-through on the topic. While not the first research study as of late to show that misophonia is a neurological affliction, this research study has set the sensory community ablaze. Misophonia, a disorder that could not be pinned down, has become clearer to the scientific community.
A disorder that has heavy implications for sufferers that struggle without science, misophonia has existed in a scope of hopelessness for sufferers that had little understanding, and even less representation from the scientific community. In waves, not ripples, misophonia research has blown up in the past few months.
In a PsychToday article, Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout and Michael Mannino explain the importance of this study.
The take home message here is that due to this aberrant connectivity those with misophonia misinterpret the common misophonic trigger sounds in a way that causes their bodies to respond as though they are under threat. The amygdala is the part of all this that takes all this “mis”information, and then tells the body, “lets do something about this.”
This is not the first promising study on misophonia, but it does show a wonderful trend toward science that helps understand a disorder previously unbeknownst to many, including sufferers of the disorder.
Dr. Joseph E. LeDoux and Dr. Lorenzo Diaz-Mataix of the LeDoux Lab at NYU have been researching misophonia. Preliminary findings explore the amygdala’s role in misophonia.
The lateral amygdala is the part of the brain structure where the auditory (or other sensory information) comes in and the central amygdala is the part where signals are sent that send the message “go or no go” for fight flight. One of the roles of central amygdala is to mediate valence (positive or negative assignment) to sensory information.
The LeDoux lab is exploring the implications of memory reconsolidation, and its usefulness for persons suffering with misophonia.
Notable studies of misophonia include Miren Edelstein’s paper “Misophonia: Physiological Investigations and Case Descriptions.” In an interview for Misophonia International, Miren explains her research:
“I believe that our particular area of research is unique in the sense that it provides both qualitative and quantitative evidence for misophonia. The goal of our first study was to validate the experiences of misophonia sufferers by showing that there are indeed both psychological and physiological differences in how they process certain sounds. In our future work, we intend to build upon the findings from our first study in order to develop possible strategies or inventions that may be utilized for treatment.”
Misophonia research has effectively swept under the rug any past assumptions that the disorder is related to OCD, or is merely psychological. Further explorations of misophonia can now move past these sweeping claims, and explore the physiological nature of the disorder. Sufferers cannot merely “think it away,” and their uncontrollable reaction has been validated by science.
Going forward, misophonia researchers will be faced with numerous challenges. These challenges will include possible treatments, as well as determining whether the overlaps between similar disorders such as auditory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder, and other disorders with over-stimulation are based on similar characteristics. According to Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, “Individuals with APD (auditory processing disorder) do not typically report the autonomic nervous system arousal (or the fight/flight reaction associated with anger and rage) in association with sounds in misophonia. However, there are theoretical overlaps particularly within the area of “Figure-to-Ground Discrimination.” Another possible over-lapped disorder, SPD SOR, is a subtype of Sensory Processing Disorder in which individuals react with autonomic nervous system arousal in one or more sensory modalities). SPD Star, an organization for SPD, recognizes this potential overlap.
According to The Sensation and Emotion Program at Duke University, “There is no scientific evidence that any specific medication treats Misophonia. However, doctors are able to prescribe medications ‘off label,’ which means that they can suggest you try medications developed for other problems that they believe may help reduce difficulties related to misophonia.” Persons that believe they have misophonia may not be able to find medical solutions just yet – but the growing body of research suggests that the science may be just around the corner.
Many researchers have come together with the IMRN, or International Misophonia Research Network to ensure that misophonia research is covering a cross-disclipinary pattern of research. Mercede Erfanian, a Ph.D. can and Misophonia researcher believes that a multi-disciplinary approach is the most meaningful way research can go forward.
In my opinion, the most efficient multi-disciplinary team of research would consist of general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, audiologists and audiometrists. A general practitioner would evaluate the physical symptoms of misophonia and differentiate them from other similar physical manifestations. A psychologist or psychiatrist could study the behavior and mental process of misophonics as well as their affective and thought related aspects of disorder and copy strategies.
A neuroscientist would identify any brain dysfunction in misophonics and possible connection of misophonia with other affective and cognitive phenomena. An audiologist could diagnose and monitor the vestibular system of the ear or the presence of other auditory problems and the possible damage to auditory system and cortex. An audiometrist, would administer audiometrist tests to enable the rehabilitation of hearing loss and differentiate misophonics from other “decreased sound tolerance
Dr. Kumar, Dr. LeDoux, Dr Diaz-Mataix, as well as the Ph.D. candidates mentioned (Erfanian, Edelstein) are members of the IMRN Advisory Board.