Inattention in misophonia: Difficulties achieving and maintaining alertness

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2020 Feb;42(1):66-75. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2019.1666801. Epub 2019 Sep 19.


Introduction: Misophonia is marked by abnormal negative reactions to specific and idiosyncratic sounds. Despite unclear etiology and diagnostic conceptualization, neuropsychology may be able to help characterize the syndrome. In the current study, we administered the Attention Network Test (ANT) under symptom provocation conditions, as well as secondary measures of concept formation, perseveration, processing speed, and frustration tolerance. We assessed treatment seeking individuals with misophonia and non-clinical controls. We hypothesized higher alerting, orienting, and conflict effects on the ANT suggesting overall poorer performance for the misophonia group.Methods: The sample consisted of symptomatic individuals recruited from a randomized treatment trial prior to the mandatory waitlist (n = 11) and age, gender matched controls (n = 11). Symptomatic individuals were screened with the Misophonia Questionnaire, as well as a number of additional self-report and diagnostic measures.Results: Robust Bayesian estimation in multi-level models suggested worse alerting attention for symptomatic individuals, βMedian = 2.766, βSD = 1.253, 95% CI [0.322, 5.2876], Bayes factor = 31.41. There were no effects respective to block (i.e., blocks before versus during and after symptom provocation) or interaction effects. There were also no effects particular to executive functioning measures but some evidence this domain should be further explored (e.g., ANT conflict effects, perseveration, and serial math accuracy).Conclusions: We propose that symptom provocation alone does not explain the observed group difference in alerting attention, which could reflect a long-standing neuropsychological weakness. Future studies should attempt to characterize misophonia with more comprehensive neuropsychological batteries and larger samples.

Keywords: Attentional networks; Bayesian analysis; decreased sound tolerance; frontal systems; misophonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic