Embrace your inner geek, this is really interesting stuff…
Gene bods, 23andMe, have conducted some research which they believe indicates that misophonia is potentially a genetic trait.
The numbers are relatively small at this stage, the findings are VERY broad so clearly a lot more research and testing needs to be done, but this is an interesting find nonetheless.
Who are 23andMe? They’re a company who offer DNA genetic testing and analysis to the public. You pay them a fee, they send you a kit and you send them back a large plastic tube filled with your saliva, which they can then analyse.
Basically you spit at them through the post.
Now, primarily people have used the service to find out whether they are genetically predisposed to certain medical conditions or degenerative diseases. Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Cystic Fibrosis.
They can also show whether you’re more likely, given your genetic makeup, to have a positive or negative to certain drugs and treatments. There’s also the more fun, ‘family tree’ side where you can look at genetic traits related to which part of the world your ancestors were from.
I have to thank my readers for sharing the misophonia angle here because a couple of them have received DNA reports and noticed that the findings indicate that they are more disposed to variant rs2937573.
Here’s a note from the 23andMe’s blog which explains their findings:
“In an internal study of about 80,000 customers who have consented to research on the subject, 23andMe researchers found that about 20 percent said they were “filled with rage” by the sound of others eating.”
“The researchers also found that the condition was more commonly reported by women than men.”
“And the study identified a specific variant associated with misophonia among people of European ancestry. The variant, rs2937573, is near the gene TENM2, which plays a role in brain development.”
I’d like to look at a few of the points raised by these findings in little more detail here:
Misophonia in women vs men – There does appear to be a higher prevalence of misophonia among women than men but it would be interesting to see if larger studies back this up. It may be the case that men are, in some instances, less forthcoming about their health issues. A study conducted by the National Pharmacy Association in 2012 showed that men visited their GP 4 times a year compared to 6 times a year for women. Men also visited pharmacies 4 times a year on average compared to 18 times for women.
Misophonia and ethnicity – 23andMe quoted the gene variant rs2937573 as being associated with ‘people of European ancestry’. I was really surprised by this finding as the misophones who contacted me on Allergic to Sound come from all over the world. While it’s certainly possible that they all have some European ancestry, somewhere down the line, it will interesting to see if they are able to identify any other possible gene variants in the future that refute this finding.
That 20% figure – I can usually spot a fellow misophone in public – we have pretty tell tale signs – there’s a certain flicker that passes across the eyes when a trigger sound is in play… a rush for headphones… a jitteryness. Unless there is dramatically sliding scale of misophonia sensitivity I’d be surprised if as many as 2 in 10 humans have misophonia. Looking at my own friend set I would have put the figure much much lower. This is a very subjective observation.
One gene? – This is important. 23andMe’s finding does not mean we can say with absolute certainty that if you have this ONE gene variant you will have misophonia. Multiple genes may be involved in misophonia and unravelling which of these play a role (it may be several in tandem) will, I hope, be the subject of ongoing study.
Nature vs Nurture – It’s also very important to look at environmental factors. They may well be an epigenetic component to misophonia i.e. brought on by a gene variant which is ‘switched on’. Perhaps, for example, it’s a gene variant that is triggered during puberty. This might explain why the majority of people with misophonia report noticing it at around the age of 11.
I suspect that what may be happening here is that the genes mentioned may have some role in sensory processing… or that they have a role in the sensitivity of the signals or responses coming in or out and how they’re processed. For the time being I’m not convinced that there’s a ‘one off’ misophonia gene that we can label and put in a box as being the sole answer.
However, with that said this is a fascinating line of research and one that I hope these DNA testing companies continue to delve into in the future. The more data we can get on this subject the better.
What are your thoughts? Do you have family members you suspect may have misophonia? Are you someone with misophonia who is of non European descent? I’d love to continue the discussion in the comments section below.