Research Programs

NYU – LeDoux Lab

screen-shot-2016-08-29-at-11-27-54-pm-1The LeDoux lab is currently working on a study that is influenced by Misophonia.
The goal of this research is to explore how the processing of auditory stimuli in the brain can go awry (leading some people 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. If results are promising, we could pursue brain imaging studies in humans, to try to con rm that these results apply to humans as well, helping us to discover ways to treat the problem.

 

Duke University

duke_university_logo-svg_The Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program is the longest standing research program involved with the IMRN. Founded by Jennifer Jo Brout in 2008 and led by Dr. Zach Rosenthal.

Previous studies from this program have examined the effects of meclizine on prepulse 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 the disorder. 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 re-evaluate 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 adversive stimuli.

 

Stephen Porges – The Kinsey Institute

kinseylogo74x414The 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).

The goal is to provide an acoustic model of stimuli that subjectively trigger defense (predator, danger) or safety and calmness. A secondary goal is illustrate that the affective dimensions of valence and arousal can be translated into acoustic features that have a neurophysiological substrate and a phylogenetic history.

We will provide an explanation of why sounds are perceived as pleasing and calming and why other sounds are frightening or signal danger. The explanation will be based on how our nervous system processes and categorizes acoustic features into predator, danger, and social (safety) signals; a process occurring through sensory processing pathways (i.e., neuroception) that are too important to be dependent on conscious decisions (i.e., perception). We will use the subjective ratings provided in the manual as the criteria to support our hypothesis.

 

SPD STAR Institute

star-institute-logoFor the purpose of Misophonia, Dr. Brout and Dr. Miller are working on a short term program that can be individualized and taught to adults in order to help them “down-regulate” (or bring in the parasympathetic nervous system). This is something that Dr. Brout has utilized for herself and for her daughter since learning about OT SI Therapy in 1999. However, not everyone can see an Occupational Therapist or strategize how to work these exercises into every day life. Currently, Dr. Miller and Dr. Brout are working on a delivery method that is inexpensive and widely available. In addition, Dr. Miller and IMRN are involved in a study that will help determine if SPD “auditory over-responsivity” and Misophonia do in fact include the same symptoms, and/or how they may differ, etc.