Research Interview with Mercede Erfanian

mercede erfanian research interview misophonia

Jennifer:  Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got interested in research in general?

Mercede:  As long as I can remember, I have been pretty curious and energetic. When I was younger this curiosity manifested in the form of destroying things in order to understand how they worked. This ongoing sense of discovery in me eventually led me to do research. Research can feed my soul and satisfy my sense of discovery.

Eventually I wanted to know why, and people may behave in different situations. This yearning for knowledge led me to the field of psychology. I studied clinical psychology for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, taking intensive courses in affective neuroscience in Maastricht University. This helped me to specify my area of expertise to mood, anxiety and OC related disorders.

Jennifer: How did you get interested in Misophonia?

Mercede: I was doing a study titled ”Synesthesia in bipolar and schizophrenic patients: a comparative study of their relationship with abstract thinking” in 2013. This opened the door to misophonia, as misophonia and synesthesia could be similar from a neuroscientific standpoint. In short, one way to define synesthesia is provoking one sense by another, like, hearing colors or seeing sounds( Chromesthesia ). Misophonia could be almost the same phenomena, which could be: “ provoking an emotion by a sound or scene or even a touch.

Jennifer: Would you mind describing your study for us? What was your most important finding?

Mercede: While there is still no agreed set of criteria for misophonia and the research is in its infancy, we tried to clarify the very particular criteria for misophonia. Some researchers believe misophonia should be subsumed as “ decreased sound tolerance” while other researchers assume it should be classified under OC related disorders.

In this study, we introduce a wide range of emotional and physical characteristics, and thoughts, as well as an elaborate list of auditory, visual, and tactile triggers, nature of triggers, age of onset, family history, comorbidity with other disorders and phenomena, and severity, to try and get a wider, more exact inventory of the characteristics of Misophonia.

Jennifer: What do you think your particular area of research might add the larger body of misophonia research?

Mercede: My area of research would suggest a number of diagnosis
techniques and treatments for misophonia, although it is highly recommended to study misophonia thoroughly to find out different risk factors, epidemiology and etiology that are still ambiguous. I believe it is essential to do more research in order to fully understand the nature of misophonia before jumping to propose treatment.

Jennifer: If you could set up a lab with a team of cross-disciplinary researchers to study misophonia from which disciplines would these individuals be (e.g. neuroscience, audiology, etc.?)

Mercede: In my opinion, the most efficient multi-disciplinary team of research would consist of general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, audiologists and audiometrists. A general practitioner would evaluate the physical symptoms of misophonia and differentiate them from other similar physical manifestations. A Psychologist or psychiatrist could study the behavior and mental process of Misophonics as well as their affective and thought related aspects of disorder and copy strategies.

A neuroscientist would identify any brain dysfunction in Misophonics and possible connection of misophonia with other affective and cognitive phenomena. An audiologist could diagnose and monitor the vestibular system of the ear or the presence of other auditory problems and the possible damage to auditory system and cortex. An audiometrist, would administer audiometrist tests to enable the rehabilitation of hearing loss and differentiate Misophonics from other “decreased sound tolerance