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Misophonia: Scientists Crack Why Eating Sounds Can Make People Angry (bbc.com) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Why some people become enraged by sounds such as eating or breathing has been explained by brain scan studies. The condition, misophonia, is far more than simply disliking noises such as nails being scraped down a blackboard. UK scientists have shown some people's brains become hardwired to produce an "excessive" emotional response. Olana developed the condition when she was eight years old. Her trigger sounds include breathing, eating and rustling noises. Scientists, including Olana, at multiple centers in the UK scanned the brains of 20 misophonic people and 22 people without the condition. They were played a range of noises while they were in the MRI machine, including: neutral sounds such as rain; generally unpleasant sounds such as screaming; people's trigger sounds. The results, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed the part of the brain that joins our senses with our emotions -- the anterior insular cortex -- was overly active in misophonia. And it was wired up and connected to other parts of the brain differently in those with misophonia. Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, from Newcastle University, told BBC News: "They are going into overdrive when they hear these sounds, but the activity was specific to the trigger sounds not the other two sounds. The reaction is anger mostly, it's not disgust, the dominating emotion is the anger -- it looks like a normal response, but then it is going into overdrive." There are no treatments, but Olana has developed coping mechanisms such as using ear plugs. It is still not clear how common the disorder is, as there is no clear way of diagnosing it and it was only recently discovered. Ultimately, the researchers hope, understanding the difference in the misophonic brain will lead to new treatments. One idea is that low levels of targeted electricity passed through the skull, which is known to adjust brain function, could help.
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Misophonia: Scientists Crack Why Eating Sounds Can Make People Angry

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2017 @03:11AM (#53801109)

    This is only a test.

  • by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Saturday February 04, 2017 @03:28AM (#53801165)

    Don't worry, I'm just hungry a bit, I hear you eating and smell you eating and you're not offering me a bite, so I'm going to growl, claw you to death and steal your food, step away and eat it. Then I'll pee on every tree around and find a sex partner or something remotely like it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      i hate the noises of knives cutting into vegetation, always have. hate it 10 times more when some artsy chef is doing it to impress some customers to agree to a bill. am not saying im a sun gazer who persecutes vegan peoples, but actually hate the dramatization vibes and not the actualcutting itself. Mainly because in the Office of Armiger we present ourselves as ethically as possible. I do say that the Ministry of funny Walks is in good tastes.

      Have a good day sir.

  • Sounds rather like the opposite of ASMR [wikipedia.org], which produces non-intuitive positive sensations and emotions in response to similar sounds, in susceptible individuals.
    • Interestingly, I have both. I ofteb wonder if there's a connection. For what it's worth, I experience misophonia way more often than asmr, but on the rare occasions where I think a sound shoild trigger both, it seems the ASMR takes precidence.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Interestingly, I have both. I ofteb wonder if there's a connection.

        Quite likely. Both are anomalies affecting the same areas of the brain.
        I'd go one step further, and say I would find it surprising if they aren't variations of the same brain defect, and what differs is which way the emotion dial gets turned when a trigger condition occurs.

      • I wonder if it's related to perception of control. I have a co-worker that makes constant mouth and breathy noises that are annoying in person, but if I were listening to a recording of it, I'm sure I'd get tingles from it.

  • Fingernails on a chalkboard, screaming/yelling, etc. - most of these sounds don't really upset me. What does tick me off is the sound of gulping/swallowing. I don't make these noises, but too many of you uncultured pigs do, and I've been keeping a list...
    • Swallowing is uncultured? What's the alternative, not swallowing? That could get messy.

      If you don't like the noises, then turn up the volume on your music player.

      • Swallowing is uncultured? What's the alternative, not swallowing?

        Eat! Chew! Swallow! Do all of these! I don't need to hear you do them!

        On another note, slurping is OK. It is recognized as good manners in some cultures. (but once it's inside your mouth, there's no need for any more noise!).

        • by ignavus ( 213578 )

          On another note, slurping is OK. It is recognized as good manners in some cultures. (but once it's inside your mouth, there's no need for any more noise!).

          No. Slurping is most definitely not OK. I have had misophonia since the age of 12 (and it gets worse with age) and slurping is one of my principal triggers. I will feel like screaming at you as loud as I can if you slurp. I probably won't, but I will be sorely tempted. But I will get out of there as quick as possible.

          Don't slurp.

          (And yes, I know all about the joys of eating the traditional Chinese way. The only way I could stand it was to drink a large glass of alcoholic cider as quickly as possible. Alcoho

          • Don't slurp.

            OK, if that's a sound that bothers you, I can respect that. I tend to eat fairly quietly.

            Except when I'm over at the neighbor's house. They have two little ankle-biting yipper dogs that I love to torment by acting like I'm eating and making "nom-nom-nom" sounds. They think they're missing out and it drivrd them crazy.

            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

              Don't slurp.

              OK, if that's a sound that bothers you

              My partner has misophonia. I deliberately provoke it so I can condition her out of it. As a bonus, it's hilarious. You will have an unavoidable picture of these sounds in you mind as my legg jumps up and down as I set up an repeating reflex in my leg, it can go on indefinately .

              the spelling mistakes are deliberates as is the, punctuation errrors, that

              Feeling triggered yet? I also do a slow openign of my mouth when it is dry and there is no food in there so that my toungue sticks and it makes a suktion no

          • In Japan, slurping is the polite way to indicate that you like the food.

    • by dddux ( 3656447 )
      People in your company should not swallow then. They should just spit it out in front of you instead?
  • I get irritated by these noises, but I just tend to think that if I am hearing noises I shouldn't be hearing, because people are capable of breathing and eating quietly in most cases, it's because someone is trying to bug me by monopolizing my attention. Some people are amused simply because they can bug people with no consequences, /shrug.
    • YES IT DOES! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2017 @04:27AM (#53801265)

      I was having a discussion with someone the other day (who you very well might be able to dox since he was one of the primary patients for the Canadian study on this, with one of the worse cases of Misophonia known.)

      It appears to run in my own family along the male line, ranging from eating noises (my father) to a variety of vocal triggers mostly limited to my immediate family (most likely picked up when I was little during the period I spent the most time around them.)

      While mine and my father's are controllable (although having triggered sessions of physical conflict between us!) the friend mentioned above have a broader range of noises that caused this effect in him, to the point of causing PTSD from people torturing him with the sounds.

      Just because something isn't a big deal for you doesn't mean it isn't a hugely debilitating disease for other people. Sometimes there are available means to limit or mitigate the effects of them, but without focusing research on them the problem won't be better understood, and may result in people who really don't deserve it having social, legal, personal, etc problems because their condition isn't discernable as a debilitating neurological disorder. And the more of these disorders we understand, the better will we be able to understand our genes, our minds, and other impulses throughout our body. Narrowminded atiitudes like yours are what have been holding back ventures into science and technologies that 'obviously have no merit'.

    • That comes under the category of random non-periodic noise. I once had an office cubicle next to a fire door. Anytime someone went in or out of that door, it would slam loudly. Towards lunchtime it would slam every 10 seconds as people went out and came back in again.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It does warrant research. Misophonia can be a life wrecker. Think instant fight or flight response when a person hears a certain sound.

    • You have a coping mechanism in the form of attributing malice where none exists. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. And finally, anything that helps us understand brain functions and pathologies is worth study.

    • I get irritated by these noises, but I just tend to think that if I am hearing noises I shouldn't be hearing, because people are capable of breathing and eating quietly in most cases, it's because someone is trying to bug me by monopolizing my attention.

      That might happen sometimes, but most of the time they just don't care about you. Also, it's ableist (yeah, I snicker too, but hold on) to assume that people are capable of breathing and eating quietly. I have allergies and asthma. Most of the time, I am capable of breathing and eating quietly, but sometimes I am not. Even so, I do feel that people have a responsibility to engage as much personal restraint as possible. Debilitation is not an excuse to just throw up your hands and say fuck it. Do what you ca

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      It depends on whether you think understanding how your subjective experience arises in your brain is worth studying. That's the point of the study; it was already established that people like you exist, the question is why are you that way?

      That said, this isn't necessarily an answer as to why you are that way. It's more a matter of "how" than "why".

  • Now that they've identified the part of the brain that causes this irrational response, doctors can simply cauterise it so the rest of us can carry on munching, crunching and slurping like normal humans. After all, no-one was going to make allowances for Albert J. Pfister [wikia.com]

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Saturday February 04, 2017 @11:47AM (#53802355) Homepage Journal

      doctors can simply cauterise it so the rest of us can carry on munching, crunching and slurping like normal humans.

      I'm 100% unimpressed by the fact that either no one took the time to teach such folk manners, or that having been taught, they failed to integrate these basic socializations. While it may be polite to slurp in China, it isn't most other places. Consequently, it's not okay to slurp here, just because it's okay to slurp in China.

      People can certainly chew with their mouths open, talk as loudly as they want, mumble, hold their tableware like a monkey with a broken wrist, face-dive into their dishes while eating, drool, snort, ignore personal grooming, blow their nose at the table, bang their tea/coffee cup with their spoon, fail to hold doors for others, fail to keep appointments, never say thank you, start their sentences with "me and...", fail to show up when they said they would, slurp their drinks and soups, dive into their cellphones at meals, drive down the street with their windows down and their audio maxed out, cut in line...

      But I feel no obligation to respect or forgive them for any of it, or subject myself to their company, or keep them on as an employee.

      There's nothing wrong with any of these things that some (very) basic socialization wouldn't cure. I consider my ostracization of adults exhibiting these characteristics to be nothing less than my social duty.

      TLDR: It is incumbent on us to learn basic manners and consideration; also, being moderately irritated by inconsiderate social behavior isn't a syndrome. It's evidence of being civilized.

      Raging at such things is something else again.

      • Some abnormal psych 101 might help. Perhaps slow exposure to the sound in a controlled fashion will eventually get rid of the response. Google how psychologists get rid of phobias in the same way... it apparently is the one thing in psychology that has real results.

  • Evolutionary? (Score:2, Interesting)

    I get furious just when eating. (This tendency is well-constrained by a vanishing tradition called 'table manners'). My theory (watch wildlife) is that creatures are most vulnerable while preoccupied with eating/drinking, so paranoia and watchfulness naturally rises then. If so, objecting to others audibly too close alongside is probably a simple displacement of an instinctive trait.
    • I get furious just when eating.

      Try eating food. It will make you less angry than whatever you're putting into your mouth now.

  • by tgv ( 254536 ) on Saturday February 04, 2017 @04:42AM (#53801297) Journal

    Another misleading headline. They didn't crack anything. Was there seriously anyone who doubted for one millisecond that that feeling was not somewhere in the brain? Of course it bloody is. The scans didn't reveal anything except a location that shows more activity when the condition occurs, and –suprise, surprise– it's an area known for precisely this.

    But did they discover what sets up this association? No. Why these people experience it so strongly? Neither. So no cracking, just "located the area", and even that's surrounded by uncertainty given the experimental conditions.

    • My dad was one of these people. Any little bit of lip smacking and he'd literally get red-faced. He had a huge anger problem in general, though. And frankly, he was more than a bit of an asshole. Was he an asshole because of how his brain was put together? Or did a lifetime of acting like an asshole change his brain? This study does nothing to help us decide, though it does tell us where to look in the future.

    • Honestly, I'll take anything that provides legitimacy. Most people think you're full of shit if you try to explain misophonia to them, which is why most people with misophonia never ever talk about it ever, and prefer to act like weirdos by wearing earplugs in public rather than try to ask people to be sympathetic.

      Being able to show there's a verifiable effect makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside in general, but it's also something that I may one day really need during a meeting with HR.

      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        For problems involving negative associations, cognitive behavioral therapy can really work.

    • Although it might not have been as much info as we'd like, they did "crack" something: now we know that this is more than mere annoyance; there's an actual response comparable to "flight or fight."

      This means we should treat misophonia more like an allergy (i.e. autonomic response) than a behavioral issue (i.e. intolerance).

  • People.

    I wish they would all just stop

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What bothers the shit out of me is the one guy a cubicle over that never ceases to have a mouth full of food smacking away while talking on the phone. I can't stand that smug-sounding, loud mumbling. And 9 times out of 10, that food is, of course, sardines or tunafish (of course).

  • Thats 10/10 dagnabbit
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Been using over-the-ear headphones at work listening to pink noise for the last ~10 years, which works pretty well to block out the sounds of people typing, coughing, grunting, breathing, sighing, walking, playing music, and generally existing.

    I would give up everything I own to be able to wipe out my excessively angry reactions to most sounds.

  • by Black.Shuck ( 704538 ) on Saturday February 04, 2017 @06:20AM (#53801455)

    "...break-up more households than infidelity."

    Why is it good to close your mouth when you eat?

    1. You won't spray all over everyone and everything while you masticate.
    2. More food makes it into your gut, so you're less of a wasteful slob in an otherwise hugely wasteful age.
    3. People won't have to raise their voices to have a conversation over your meat-flapping noises.
    4. You won't announce your gastronomic preoccupation to predators.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      I'd think that most people who eat with their mouths open have enough experience with it that they don't spill, which negates two of your points.

      And there may be advantages too:
      1: Not having to swallow before saying something. Which might be something important, like "lion!". I've seen people choke because they attempted to swallow unchewed food so they could answer a waiter.
      2: Practice for cunnilingus.
      3: Being able to chew on what's too big for single bites. Like gnawing on bones.

      The biggest downside to

      • I'd think that most people who eat with their mouths open have enough experience with it that they don't spill, which negates two of your points.

        I question whether those who eat with their mouths open are self-aware enough to train such an ability in the first place.

        1: Not having to swallow before saying something. Which might be something important, like "lion!". I've seen people choke because they attempted to swallow unchewed food so they could answer a waiter.

        I fail to see how chewing with a closed mouth precludes opening it in such dire emergencies. And the waiter who deliberately asks questions while people are chewing might, on inspecting their tip-jar, like to speculate on how much they've lost due to such irritating behaviour.

        If there's any connection between the act of liquefying your food before swallowing and open vs. closed mouth che

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          You eat at your mothers table with that idea in your head? Cunnilingus is practice for cunnilingus.

          Your dad never taught you how to eat a peach and remove the pit with your tongue? (And then much later figure out why he taught you?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2017 @07:35AM (#53801591)

    The summary says: "There are no treatments". That is quite strange, since last year I've seen news reports that said treatment for this exact problem was possible and often quite effective. As I remember, it was basically psychological training to associate the infuriating sounds with a non-infuriating thought. For example: if the thought of a rabbit eating a carrot does not anger the patient, then whenever he feels a surge of anger from hearing a nearby person eating an apple, he is to think of the harmless rabbit until the flash of anger has subsided. Probably easier said than done, but still, actual patients were saying it worked pretty well for them.

    • The thought of undergoing that makes me, as a grown man, want to cry. You'd have to force me in with burly guards and a straitjacket. If I'm honest with you, it sounds too close to the adverse conditioning techniques they used with gay conversion therapy for it to sound promising to me.

      The idea sounds like it hinges on an incorrect interpretation, namely that misophonia suffers get angry like a bull seeing red when they hear specific sounds.

      It's weirder and more confusing to explain than that, but I'm gonna

  • Now all we have to do is to interpret this discovery. I think there are two socially sensible options you can choose from:

    1) Manners are a form of insanity. If you don't like people smacking during lunch it's your own fault.

    2) Manners are a form of insanity. If you smack while eating you are hurting mentally ill people and should be ashamed of yourself.

    Happy voting!

  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Saturday February 04, 2017 @08:46AM (#53801757) Homepage

    If eating sounds make you angry, don't eat sounds!

    Some people just take synesthesia too far.

    • by PMuse ( 320639 )

      Personally, my trigger sound is the sound of yet another reprimand about the routine sounds of others enjoying themselves. I find myself longing for the occasions when the misphoniac is absent.

  • Brain is one of the most complex organs we have, we have not fully understood many deep functions and mechanisms of it. And suddenly you want to pump electrons across this organ which seems to be mostly working on electro-chemistry?
  • I wonder if I have this or something like it. I'm definitely sensitive to the sounds of people eating. The personal hell would probably include someone eating really crispy potato chips with their mouth open, licking and smacking their lips. It makes me unjustifiably angry and frustrated. I know my emotional reaction to it isn't proportional to the offense, but it makes me temporarily hate the person who's eating.

    I have another weird thing, and I wonder if that might be connected. I wouldn't normally

    • Those are the classic symptoms, yes. I don't know about the loud music part though- that's not something I've ever experienced. Interesting thought though, that they might be related.
  • ...that this condition is being studied at all. I've had this for as long as I can remember; my sister has it too. Trying to rationalize it away by telling yourself "this response is completely irrational and is all in your head" does nothing to help. When we were kids, family meals were fraught with negative emotion. The table was a cold war between our parents on either end and the only sounds were of people eating. I still wonder if that experience was a contributor or a coincidence.
  • Typical America. Everything has a pill.
    Sure you could treat it as an illness and electrocute the brains of anyone that gets pissed off by the sound of others eating loudly... (What next... electrocute the brains of anyone who doesn't agree with your musical taste?). ...or Americans could simply not act like pigs and dont eat with your damn mouths open. Oh wait that requires people to actually do something. How stupid of me.

  • If you're going to announce to all the sabertooths that there are tasty humans grazing over here, go do it over there!

  • But how do you eat sounds?

  • Please let them know what you think about this disorder.

    http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ion/staff... [ncl.ac.uk]

  • One idea is that low levels of targeted electricity passed through the skull, which is known to adjust brain function, could help.

    Welcome to the pinacle of progress; we in the late 1930s are lucky to be present to witness today's finest minds dominating problems which have previously gone unsolved.

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