Our Research

sensory research

The Sensation and Emotion network by Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout has been at the forefront of sensory advocacy over the past two decades.

Disappointed by her own experiences with the state of the field when seeking help for her own child, Dr. has dedicated herself to advocating for the establishment of better mental health research practice, improved diagnosis, and innovative clinical practice for the past 18 years. Her focus has been on the relationship between auditory  over-responsivity and psychological functioning. Dr. Brout continues to, bring together multi-disciplinary teams of highly esteemed academic researchers and clinicians in order to share resources, eventually culminating in research papers, academic conferences, and innovative treatment. Currently we are involved in the following studies on sensory disorders. Below that, we will list studies that we are interested in.

Our Programs & Studies

LeDoux Lab Study (Started on March 1, 2016) at NYU

The goal of this research is to explore how the processing of auditory stimuli in the brain can go awry (leading some people to have aversive reactions to stimuli that most people consider innocuous).

To gain a better understanding of how these averse reactions are controlled by the brain, we are building on our research over the past 30 years.  We have shown that the brain region called the amygdala is key to such responses.

One area of the amygdala , the lateral nucleus, is involved in receiving sensory inputs and another, the central nucleus, controls the expression of responses. Over-reactivity to auditory stimuli could be due to a hypersensitive lateral amygdala or an over-reactive central amygdala.

We will study animals that show exaggerated responses to auditory stimuli and will record activity in the lateral or central nucleus to try to determine whether the problem is due to hyper-sensitivity or hyper-reactivity.

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The Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program – Duke University

The Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program is the longest standing research program involved with The International Misophonia Research Network. Founded by Jennifer Jo Brout in 2008 and led by Dr. Zach Rosenthal, research conducted within this program investigates the relationship between auditory over-responsivity/misophonia, emotions, cognition and behavior.

Previous studies from this program have examined the effects of meclizine on pre-pulse inhibition (Levin et al., 2014) and the relationship between sensory over-responsivity and emotions in adult psychopathology (Rosenthal et al., 2011; Rosenthal et al., in press).

In addition to research, we are dedicated to developing, evaluating, and establishing best practices for providers working with patients who report having misophonia. The approach we are developing is multi-disciplinary and is done in tandem with patients and their families. The self-help component to this approach is a practical combination of proactive coping skills designed to help individuals identify aversive stimuli, and learn different ways to help calm the physiological and emotional over-arousal associated with that stimuli. The program also seeks to help individuals reevaluate and change ways of thinking about aversive stimuli that may act to acerbate.  The program teaches how to help calm the physiological and emotional responses to these aversive stimuli. Updates about this program will be posted periodically.

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Current Studies

Sensory Processing and Mental Health Study

Some people respond to sensory cues in their daily environments differently than others. Problem with processing sensory information (e.g., getting angry when hearing certain sounds) can be associated with various behavioral health problems.

This study was funded by the Wallace Research Foundation and is no longer active. The study examines the relationship between self-reported responses to sensory cues (during childhood and adulthood) and various mental health problems.

Generalization of Emotion Regulation

This is a study about the ways in which people cope with emotional distress in their lives. We will be looking at ways to understand how to help people calm down easier after they become emotionally distressed. We are interested in how to do this both inside the clinic and also outside in the real world.

Investigating Antihistamine Treatment to Reduce Sensory Over-responsiveness 

Histamine, in addition to being a chemical that controls nasal and stomach acid secretions and itch responses also serves as a transmitter between neurons in the brain. We have found that brain histamine systems play important roles in sensory responsivity. In preclinical studies we have shown that a certain type of antihistamine treatment can help reverse sensory gating impairments. In an initial clinical study with people who have difficulty modulating their sensory responsiveness, antihistamine treatment improved sensory screening without producing sedation. This initial study was in people with general sensory over-responsiveness.

The Polyvagal Theory – Stephen Porges

Polyvagal Theory makes predictions based on acoustic properties. The Polyvagal Theory proposes that subjective responses to sounds are initially (before associative learning) based on two features of the acoustic signal: pitch and variation in pitch. The theory articulates that for mammals there is a frequency band of perceptual advantage in which social communication occurs. It is within this frequency band that acoustic “safety” cues are conveyed.
Consistent with the theory, safety is signaled when the pitch of the acoustic signal is modulated within this band. Thus, a monotone within this band is not sufficient to signal safety. Moreover, the theory proposes that low frequency monotone sounds (e.g., dog’s bark, lion’s roar, large truck, and thunder) are inherent signals of predator and high frequency monotone sounds are inherent signals of pain and danger (e.g., shrill cries of babies or someone who is being injured).

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Other Studies

Participate in misophonia research – Center for Brain and Cognition (Miren Edelstein)

Do you experience distress upon hearing certain common sounds (such as chewing, tapping or breathing sounds)? You may be eligible to participate in a paid UCSD research study.

We are looking to recruit participants between the ages of 18 and 65 with misophonia to participate in a research study. The purpose of this study is to examine how people with and without misophonia perceive and process different kinds of sounds.

Research participants will be asked to listen to, produce and make judgments about certain sounds, while simultaneously having their skin conductance response (SCR) and body heat (via thermal imaging) measured.

The experiment will last for two lab sessions, with each session lasting for no more than one hour. Research participants will be paid $10 for each hour of participation. If you are interested in participating in this experiment, you can contact Miren Edelstein, MA.

Also by Miren:

Edelstein M, Brang D, Rouw R, Ramachandran VS (2013). Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions.. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2013; 7(296), 1-11, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00296