The Motor Basis for Misophonia

by May 25, 2021Research2 comments

Sukhbinder Kumar, Pradeep Dheerendra, Mercede Erfanian, Ester Benzaquén, William Sedley, Phillip E. Gander, Meher Lad, Doris E. Bamiou and Timothy D. Griffiths

Hypothesis:

“… we hypothesized that the mirror neuron system related to orofacial movements could underlie misophonia”

Findings:

“We analysed resting state fMRI (rs-fMRI) connectivity (N=33, 16 females) and sound-evoked fMRI responses (N=42, 29 females) in misophonia sufferers and controls. We demonstrate that, compared to controls, the misophonia group show no difference in auditory cortex responses to trigger sounds, but do show: (i) stronger rs-fMRI connectivity between both auditory and visual cortex and the ventral pre-motor cortex responsible for orofacial movements; (ii) stronger functional connectivity between the auditory cortex and orofacial motor area during sound perception in general; (iii) stronger activation of the orofacial motor area, specifically, in response to trigger sounds. Our results support a model of misophonia based on ‘hyper-mirroring’ of the orofacial actions of others with sounds being the ‘medium’ via which action of others is excessively mirrored. Misophonia is therefore not an abreaction to sounds, per se, but a manifestation of activity in parts of the motor system involved in producing those sounds. This new framework to understand misophonia can explain behavioural and emotional responses and has important consequences for devising effective therapies.”

Significance Statement:

“Our data provide an alternative but complementary perspective on misophonia that emphasizes the action of the trigger-person rather than the sounds which are a by-product of that action. Sounds, in this new perspective, are only a ‘medium’ via which action of the triggering-person is mirrored onto the listener. This change in perspective has important consequences for devising therapies and treatment methods for misophonia. It suggests that instead of focussing on sounds, which many existing therapies do, effective therapies should target the brain representation of movement.”

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2 Comments

  1. CC

    I’m not 100% sure I resonate with this theory. If this were true, wouldn’t you need to look at the offending person for it to be an issue of mirroring? And I am often triggered even if I deliberately avoid looking at the person. Sounds like pouring or running water also trigger me, and those don’t involve people at all.

    Just wondering if anyone else feels similarly.

    Reply
  2. Christine Beckett

    I can identify with most of the things you mention .
    Beard pulling, the sound of swallowing liquid, slurping. Nails being filed, eating ( esp If I am not eating) all these things make me feel tense and angry. As a teenager I used to walk out of the room when my mother drank coffee because she kind of sucked it up. I couldn’t bear the noise.
    The beard pulling and stroking by my husband drives me crazy and makes me feel very angry. He can’t remember not to do it.
    I would be very interested to know if there is any treatment that could help me.

    Reply

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