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3 Feb, 2017 16:37

Driven crazy by the sound of people chewing? You might have a brain abnormality

Driven crazy by the sound of people chewing? You might have a brain abnormality

People who hate the sound of noisy eating and can’t abide gum chewers have a physical brain abnormality, scientists have found.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) have discovered people who are annoyed by sounds like pen clicking actually suffer from a condition known as misophonia.

Those who have misophonia experience an intense ‘fight or flight reaction’ when they hear ‘trigger sounds.’

Medical opinion used to be skeptical about the idea that people who found such noises annoying suffered genuine brain abnormalities.

Now, however, scientists at UCL and Newcastle University have measured a change in brain activity when a ‘trigger’ sound is experienced, setting off an intense ‘flight or fight’ reaction.

Researchers claim to have discovered a difference in the ‘emotional control mechanism’ that causes misophonia sufferers’ brains to react strongly on hearing trigger sounds.

Tim Griffiths, professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, said: “I hope this will reassure sufferers.

I was part of the skeptical community myself until we saw patients in the clinic and understood how strikingly similar the features are.”
Newcastle University neuroscientist Dr Sukhbinder Kumar said: “For many people with misophonia, this will come as welcome news, as for the first time we have demonstrated a difference in brain structure and function in sufferers.

This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”

Olana Tansley-Hancock, 29, who suffers from misophonia, told BBC News she spent a long time avoiding public places that would ‘trigger’ her condition.

Anyone eating crisps is always going to set me off, the rustle of the packet is enough to start a reaction,” she said.

It’s not a general annoyance, it’s an immediate, ‘Oh my God, what is that sound? I need to get away from it or stop it.’

I spent a long time avoiding places like the cinema. I’d have to move carriages seven or eight times on 30-minute train journeys, and I left a job after three months as I spent more time crying and having panic attacks than working.”