Misophonia research is very important to all concerned
Misophonia is a newly-termed disorder and it is important to realize that ideas and concepts about it may change as research progresses. Since research is fluid, our understanding of disorders that have been around for decades (or even longer) is still subject to change. No doubt, facts about misophonia will follow the same evolving path as more research is conducted to help find out what causes misophonia. Hopefully, the day will come in which health care professionals can provide scientifically proven diagnostic and treatment techniques.
Sensory processing disorder (SPD), sensory over-responsivity (SOR) and misophonia share a remarkable symptom overlap. In both misophonia and sensory over-responsivity auditory stimuli sets off fight/flight, leaving the sufferer feeling angry, fearful, disgusted and/or “generally out of control” as the Jastreboff’s originally suggested.
The research in misophonia is in its infancy. However, an impressive body of research in sensory over-responsivity has emerged over the last 15 years. The work in sensory over- responsivity includes numerous physiologic studies demonstrating that upon presentation of sensory stimuli children and adults are propelled into the fight/flight response. Due to the symptom overlap it is important that misophonia researchers collaborate with SPD researchers in an effort to understand the similarities and differences between the disorders and also to inform the misophonia research in general.
The Center for Emotion and Attention at the University of Florida developed a database of sounds, the International Affective Digitized Sound System (IADS). The IADS (Bradley & Lang, 2007) provides a set of acoustic stimuli for experimental investigations of emotion and attention. The acoustic stimuli, similar to the visual stimuli that constitute the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), were rated along two primary dimensions: affective valence (ranging from pleasant to unpleasant) and arousal (ranging from calm to excited). Categorizing affective qualities using these dimensions is an empirical approach that does not make any theoretical assumption regarding evolutionary or neuro-physiological processes that may contribute to certain sounds triggering subjective responses along the dimensions of affect (valence, arousal) used to quantify the affective qualities of each specific stimulus.
The Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program is the longest standing research program involved with The International Misophonia Research Network. Founded by Jennifer Jo Brout in 2008 and led by Dr. Zach Rosenthal. Research conducted within this program investigates the relationship between auditory over-responsivity/misophonia, emotions, cognition and behavior.
Previous studies from this program have examined the effects of meclizine on pre-pulse inhibition (Levin et al., 2014) and the relationship between sensory over-responsivity and emotions in adult psychopathology (Rosenthal et al., 2011; Rosenthal et al., in press).
In addition to research, we are dedicated to developing, evaluating and establishing best practices for providers working with patients who report having misophonia. The approach we are developing is multi-disciplinary and is done in tandem with patients and their families. The self-help component to this approach is a practical combination of proactive coping skills designed to help individuals identify aversive stimuli and learn different ways to help calm the physiological and emotional over-arousal associated with that stimuli. The program also seeks to help individuals reevaluate and change ways of thinking about aversive stimuli that may act to acerbate. The program teaches how to help calm the physiological and emotional responses to these adversive stimuli. Updates about this program will be posted periodically on the Duke Science website.
Joseph E. LeDoux of The LeDoux lab is currently working on a study that is influenced by misophonia. The goal of this research is to explore how the processing of auditory stimuli in the brain can go awry (leading some people to have aversive reactions to stimuli that most people consider innocuous).
To gain a better understanding of how these averse reactions are controlled by the brain, we are building on our research over the past 30 years. We have shown that the brain region called the amygdala is key to such responses.
One area of the amygdala, the lateral nucleus, is involved in receiving sensory inputs and another, the central nucleus, controls the expression of responses. Over-reactivity to auditory stimuli could be due to a hypersensitive lateral amygdala or an over-reactive central amygdala.
We will study animals that show exaggerated responses to auditory stimuli and will record activity in the lateral or central nucleus to try to determine whether the problem is due to hyper-sensitivity or hyper-reactivity.
Other Research Endeavors
Miren Edelstein, who wrote a peer-reviewed misophonia article (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691507/), is looking for participants in the San Diego area. The following request comes from Miren herself, “I have questionnaires that I can distribute to those who can’t physically come to the lab, but I would love to be able to recruit people who can stop by the lab”. Information and contact for this study can be found here: http://cbc.ucsd.edu/misophonia.html.