Well-Being Medical Advances

Scientists discover why some find the sound of other people eating unbearable

Story at a glance

  • Scientists at Newcastle University have published a new study on the underlying cause of misophonia.
  • Misophonia is a hatred of certain sounds that elicits an emotional or physiological response.
  • The research found that the brain scans of people with misophonia displayed stronger instances of activity connecting the area of the brain that processes sound and the premotor cortex, the area of the brain responsible for movement in the mouth and throat.

Does the sound of other people chewing, slurping a drink, or taking a deep inhale drive you crazy? If so, you might have misophonia, which translates to a hatred of certain sounds that elicits an emotional or physiological response. It can make some people angry, anxious or utterly disgusted.

The good news is, scientists have recently discovered why these commonly innocuous sounds are overwhelming to others. 

Researchers at Newcastle University have found through the analysis of brain scans that people with misophonia had stronger instances of activity connecting the area of the brain that processes sound and the premotor cortex, the area of the brain responsible for movement in the mouth and throat. 


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According to the report published Friday in the Journal of Neuroscience, when researchers played a “trigger sound” for the subjects with misophonia, their brain scans portrayed hyperactivity in their premotor cortex. The volunteer subjects who didn’t have misophonia didn’t display those levels of hyperactivity in their scans.

“What we are suggesting is that in misophonia the trigger sound activates the motor area even though the person is only listening to the sound,” Sukhbinder Kumar, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University, told The Guardian. “It makes them feel like the sounds are intruding into them.”

The study’s scientists hope that if these findings are bolstered by further research, they can pursue treatments and therapies that would target the brain’s motor responses. 


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