How everyday sounds can trigger strong emotions: ASMR, misophonia and the feeling of wellbeing

Paul D. McGeoch, Romke Rouw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


We propose that synesthetic cross-activation between the primary auditory cortex and the anatomically adjacent insula may help explain two puzzling conditions—autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) and misophonia—in which quotidian sounds involuntarily trigger strong emotional responses. In ASMR the sounds engender relaxation, while in misophonia they trigger an aversive response. The insula both plays an important role in autonomic nervous system control and integrates multiple interoceptive maps representing the physiological state of the body to substantiate a dynamic representation of emotional wellbeing. We propose that in ASMR cross-activation of the map for affective (sensual) touch leads to an increase in subjective wellbeing and parasympathetic activity. Conversely, in misophonia the effect of the cross-activation is to decrease emotional wellbeing and increase sympathetic activity. Our hypothesis also illuminates the connection between hearing and wellbeing more broadly and helps explain why so many people experience decreased wellbeing from modern urban soundscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2000099
Number of pages1
Issue number12
Early online date10 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'How everyday sounds can trigger strong emotions: ASMR, misophonia and the feeling of wellbeing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this