Misophonia is associated with altered brain activity in the auditory cortex and salience network

Sci Rep. 2019 May 17;9(1):7542. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44084-8.


Misophonia is characterized by intense rage and disgust provoked by hearing specific human sounds resulting in social isolation due to avoidance. We exposed patients with symptom provoking audiovisual stimuli to investigate brain activity of emotional responses. 21 patients with misophonia and 23 matched healthy controls were recruited at the psychiatry department of the Amsterdam UMC. Participants were presented with three different conditions, misophonia related cues (video clips with e.g. lip smacking and loud breathing), aversive cues (violent or disgusting clips from movies), and neutral cues (video clips of e.g. someone meditating) during fMRI. Electrocardiography was recorded to determine physiological changes and self-report measures were used to assess emotional changes. Misophonic cues elicited anger, disgust and sadness in patients compared to controls. Emotional changes were associated with increases in heart rate. The neuroimaging data revealed increased activation of the right insula, right anterior cingulate cortex and right superior temporal cortex during viewing of the misophonic video clips compared to neutral clips. Our results demonstrate that audiovisual stimuli trigger anger and physiological arousal in patients with misophonia, associated with activation of the auditory cortex and salience network.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology*
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Disgust
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperacusis / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Rage / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology