The Brain Basis for Misophonia

Featured in Current Biology, February 2nd 2017

Sukhbinder Kumar, Olana Tansley-Hancock, William Sedley, Joel S. Winston, Martina F. Callaghan, Micah Allen, Thomas E. Cope, Phillip E. Gander, Doris-Eva Bamiou, Timothy D. Griffiths

Highlights:

  • Trigger sounds elicit exaggerated response in anterior insula in misophonia
  • In misophonia, there is abnormal functional connectivity of anterior insula
  • Heightened autonomic responses are mediated by anterior insula in misophonia
  • Misophonia is associated with altered interoception

Summary: “… Using functional and structural MRI coupled with physiological measurements, we demonstrate that misophonic subjects show specific trigger-sound-related responses in brain and body. Specifically, fMRI showed that in misophonic subjects, trigger sounds elicit greatly exaggerated blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the anterior insular cortex (AIC), a core hub of the “salience network” that is critical for perception of interoceptive signals and emotion processing. Trigger sounds in misophonics were associated with abnormal functional connectivity between AIC and a network of regions responsible for the processing and regulation of emotions, including ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), posteromedial cortex (PMC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Trigger sounds elicited heightened heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR) in misophonic subjects, which were mediated by AIC activity… brain structural measurements implied greater myelination within vmPFC in misophonic individuals. Overall, our results show that misophonia is a disorder in which abnormal salience is attributed to particular sounds based on the abnormal activation and functional connectivity of AIC.”

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