People who have extreme reactions to sounds such as chewing or loud breathing may have a “supersensitised” brain connection, according to a study.
Misophonia can trigger intense physical or emotional reactions that others might see as over the top.
Newcastle University researchers have found sufferers had increased connectivity between the brain’s auditory cortex and motor control areas related to the mouth, throat and face.
“Our findings indicate that for people with misophonia there is abnormal communication between the auditory and motor brain regions – you could describe it as a supersensitised connection,” said lead author Dr Sukhbinder Kumar.
“This is the first time such a connection in the brain has been identified for the condition.”
The trigger for people with misophonia – meaning hatred of sound – is usually oral sounds. The reaction can be anything from mild disgust and anxiety to panic and the urge to flee.
Around 6% to 20% of people are believed to be affected and it often first appears around the age of 12 – more commonly in girls.
It can put a strain on the social life of sufferers as they try to avoid the trigger sounds.
Dr Kumar said some people with the condition can lessen their symptoms by mimicking the action that generates the sound, which might help restore a sense of control.
“Using this knowledge may help us develop new therapies for people with the condition,” he said.
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.