Something to SCREAM about

In a recent study released by the UK’s Newcastle University, the sound of a woman screaming is scientifically far more unpleasant than listening to a baby crying. Both annoying noises made the top ten most unpleasant sounds however. The screaming women were positioned in the sixth spot while the poor baby was a distant ninth. No wonder he’s crying.
 In top spot of the 74 sounds the researchers experimented with was a knife cutting a bottle. This was a surprise since a lot of money rode on “infomercials”. The silver medal for auditory annoyance went to a fork on a glass, as the traditional favourite “chalk on a chalkboard” got the bronze. After that came; a ruler on a bottle, (what’s with all these things on bottles?) nails on a chalkboard, that woman who keeps screaming, an angle-grinder, squealing brakes, the aforementioned sad baby and in tenth spot, an electric drill.
 The study only had four entries in their nicest sound sweepstakes and none was “the sound of your own name”. Fourth on the list was the sound of water flowing followed by, in ascending order, thunder, a baby laughing (finally!) and applause.
 The researchers used MRI scans on 13 test subjects to view the reaction of various noises inside their brains. They found that the sounds are processed in the brain, in an area called the amygdale, prior to being sent on its way to the auditory centers. Unpleasant noises appear to hyper-sensitize the region and can even cause it to send a signal for an involuntary vocal reaction.
 “It appears there is something very primitive kicking in,” states study author, Dr Sukhbinder Kumar. “It’s a possible distress signal from the amygdala to the auditory cortex.”
 The research team was led by Professor Tim Griffiths, also from Newcastle University. He described the possibilities the research may contribute to in future.
 “This work sheds new light on the interaction of the amygdala and the auditory cortex. This might be a new inroad into emotional disorders and disorders like tinnitus and migraine in which there seems to be heightened perception of the unpleasant aspects of sounds,” he explained.

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