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Dr. Zach Rosenthal on the Misophonia Breakthrough study

An interview with Dr. Zach Rosenthal (Duke University)

Jennifer: Dr. Rosenthal would you comment on Dr. Kumar's new break through Misophonia study?

Dr. Rosenthal: This study is a big step forward in the science of misophonia. Dr. Kumar and his team have identified where in the brain people with misophonia respond to trigger sounds differently than other sounds. This gives clinical scientists key insights about biological mechanisms that can be targeted for change when developing ways to help people with misophonia.

Jennifer: Please continue

Courtesy of Pexels
Source: Courtesy of Pexels

Dr. Rosenthal: This study helps answer a common question many people with misophonia have asked. What happens in my brain when I am triggered? It turns out that their brains indeed may be responding to trigger sounds differently than to other sounds. This work also tells us that misophonia is not simply a self-reported set of symptoms. Instead, there may be objective neural responses occurring alongside people's subjective experiences. These patterns of brain-based responses probably play a central role in the cascade of biological, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive responses that occur once someone is triggered.

Jennifer: Would you also remark on how this study helps classify misophonia? Is it psychiatric or neurological?

Dr. Rosenthal: This study does not directly tell us whether misophonia is best classified as a psychiatric disorder or neurological disorder. That is not the point of the study. Instead, this research points a bright light right at where in the brain we might expect to see atypical neural responses to trigger sounds. I think the findings from this study suggest that misophonia has neural underpinnings. This is very important. However, from a scientific perspective, that is also true of neurological disorders and many psychiatric disorders.

Jennifer: Specifically, would you explain how a disorder that includes emotional responses should be thought of as a "brain-based" disorder? This can be confusing.

Dr. Rosenthal: Disorders and syndromes characterized by emotional responses are sometimes said to be "brain-based." This is sometimes confusing to people, but the basic idea is that emotions include biological, behavioral, and cognitive responses to stimuli, and these responses all require brain systems. Other brain-based systems related to emotion also are probably involved in misophonia. For example, trigger sounds are sensory-based cues associated with a prior learning history that are attended to over other sounds and elicit emotional responses that include both behavior and cognition. This means misophonia may be a brain-based condition that involves neural systems that govern our sensation, perception, attention, memory, learning, cognition, behavior and emotion. That is a lot of complexity, and that is why we need much more science done to shed light on the nature of misophonia.

Jennifer: Dr. Rosenthal thank you for your comments and clarification with regard to this complex disorder.

Dr. Rosenthal: You are welcome!

For more information about Dr. Rosenthal and his work with misophonia

For more information about misophonia:


Kumar, S., Hancock, OT., Sedley,, W., Winston, JS., Callaghan, MF., Allen M., Cope, TE., Gander, PE., Bamiou, DE., Griffiths, TD (2017). The brain basis for misophonia. Current Biology (in Press).DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.048