The phantom auditory perception of subjective tinnitus is associated with aberrant brain activity as evidenced by magneto- and electroencephalographic studies. We tested the hypotheses (1) that psychoacoustically measured tinnitus loudness is related to gamma oscillatory band power, and (2) that tinnitus loudness and tinnitus-related distress are related to distinct brain activity patterns as suggested by the distinction between loudness and distress experienced by tinnitus patients. Furthermore, we explored (3) how hearing impairment, minimum masking level, and (4) psychological comorbidities are related to spontaneous oscillatory brain activity in tinnitus patients.
Methods and Findings
Resting state oscillatory brain activity recorded electroencephalographically from 46 male tinnitus patients showed a positive correlation between gamma band oscillations and psychoacoustic tinnitus loudness determined with the reconstructed tinnitus sound, but not with the other psychoacoustic loudness measures that were used. Tinnitus-related distress did also correlate with delta band activity, but at electrode positions different from those associated with tinnitus loudness. Furthermore, highly distressed tinnitus patients exhibited a higher level of theta band activity. Moreover, mean hearing loss between 0.125 kHz and 16 kHz was associated with a decrease in gamma activity, whereas minimum masking levels correlated positively with delta band power. In contrast, psychological comorbidities did not express significant correlations with oscillatory brain activity.
Different clinically relevant tinnitus characteristics show distinctive associations with spontaneous brain oscillatory power. Results support hypothesis (1), but exclusively for the tinnitus loudness derived from matching to the reconstructed tinnitus sound. This suggests to preferably use the reconstructed tinnitus spectrum to determine psychoacoustic tinnitus loudness. Results also support hypothesis (2). Moreover, hearing loss and minimum masking level correlate with oscillatory power in distinctive frequency bands. The lack of an association between psychological comorbidities and oscillatory power may be attributed to the overall low level of mental health problems in the present sample.
Chronic tinnitus, the continuous perception of a phantom sound, is a highly prevalent audiological symptom. A promising approach for the treatment of tinnitus is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) as this directly affects tinnitus-related brain activity. Several studies indeed show tinnitus relief after rTMS, however effects are moderate and vary strongly across patients. This may be due to a lack of knowledge regarding how rTMS affects oscillatory activity in tinnitus sufferers and which modulations are associated with tinnitus relief. In the present study we examined the effects of five different stimulation protocols (including sham) by measuring tinnitus loudness and tinnitus-related brain activity with Magnetoencephalography before and after rTMS. Changes in oscillatory activity were analysed for the stimulated auditory cortex as well as for the entire brain regarding certain frequency bands of interest (delta, theta, alpha, gamma). In line with the literature the effects of rTMS on tinnitus loudness varied strongly across patients. This variability was also reflected in the rTMS effects on oscillatory activity. Importantly, strong reductions in tinnitus loudness were associated with increases in alpha power in the stimulated auditory cortex, while an unspecific decrease in gamma and alpha power, particularly in left frontal regions, was linked to an increase in tinnitus loudness. The identification of alpha power increase as main correlate for tinnitus reduction sheds further light on the pathophysiology of tinnitus. This will hopefully stimulate the development of more effective therapy approaches.
Neuroimaging studies have identified networks of brain areas and oscillations associated with tinnitus perception. However, how these regions relate to perceptual characteristics of tinnitus, and how oscillations in various frequency bands are associated with communications within the tinnitus network is still incompletely understood. Recent evidence suggests that apart from changes of the tinnitus severity the changes of tinnitus dominant pitch also have modulating effect on the underlying neuronal activity in a number of brain areas within the tinnitus network. Therefore, in a re-analysis of an existing dataset, we sought to determine how the oscillations in the tinnitus network in the various frequency bands interact. We also investigate how changes of tinnitus loudness, annoyance and pitch affect cross-frequency interaction both within and between nodes of the tinnitus network. Results of this study provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence that in tinnitus patients, aside from the previously described changes of oscillatory activity, there are also changes of cross-frequency coupling (CFC); phase-amplitude CFC was increased in tinnitus patients within the auditory cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal regions between the phase of delta-theta and the amplitude of gamma oscillations (Modulation Index [MI] 0.17 in tinnitus patients vs. 0.08 in tinnitus free controls). Moreover, theta phase in the anterior cingulate region modulated gamma in the auditory (MI 0.1) and dorsolateral prefrontal regions (MI 0.19). Reduction of tinnitus severity after acoustic coordinated reset therapy led to a partial normalization of abnormal CFC. Also treatment induced changes in tinnitus pitch significantly modulated changes in CFC. Thus, tinnitus perception is associated with a more pronounced CFC within and between nodes of the tinnitus network. CFC can coordinate tinnitus-relevant activity in the tinnitus network providing a mechanism for effective communication between nodes of this network.
tinnitus pitch; oscillations; delta band activity; alpha rhythm; gamma band activity; coordinated reset neuromodulation; cross frequency coupling
Tinnitus is an auditory phantom phenomenon characterized by the sensation of sounds without objectively identifiable sound sources. To date, its causes are not well understood. Previous research found altered patterns of spontaneous brain activity in chronic tinnitus sufferers compared to healthy controls, yet it is unknown whether these abnormal oscillatory patterns are causally related to the tinnitus sensation. Partial support for this notion comes from a neurofeedback approach developed by our group, in which significant reductions in tinnitus loudness could be achieved in patients who successfully normalized their patterns of spontaneous brain activity. The current work attempts to complement these studies by scrutinizing how modulations of tinnitus intensity alter ongoing oscillatory activity.
In the present study the relation between tinnitus sensation and spontaneous brain activity was investigated using residual inhibition (RI) to reduce tinnitus intensity and source-space projected magnetencephalographic (MEG) data to index brain activity. RI is the sustained reduction (criteria: 50% for at least 30 s) in tinnitus loudness after cessation of a tonal tinnitus masker. A pilot study (n = 38) identified 10 patients who showed RI. A significant reduction of power in the delta (1.3–4.0 Hz) frequency band was observed in temporal regions during RI (p ≤ 0.001).
The current results suggest that changes of tinnitus intensity induced by RI are mediated by alterations in the pathological patterns of spontaneous brain activity, specifically a reduction of delta activity. Delta activity is a characteristic oscillatory activity generated by deafferented/deprived neuronal networks. This implies that RI effects might reflect the transient reestablishment of balance between excitatory and inhibitory neuronal assemblies, via reafferentation, that have been perturbed (in most tinnitus individuals) by hearing damage. As enhancements have been reported in the delta frequency band for tinnitus at rest, this result conforms to our assumption that a normalization of oscillatory properties of cortical networks is a prerequisite for attenuating the tinnitus sensation. For RI to have therapeutic significance however, this normalization would have to be stabilized.
Tinnitus is an auditory phenomenon characterised by the perception of a sound in the absence of an external auditory stimulus. Chronic subjective tinnitus is almost certainly maintained via central mechanisms, and this is consistent with observed measures of altered spontaneous brain activity. A number of putative central auditory mechanisms for tinnitus have been proposed. The influential thalamocortical dysrhythmia model suggests that tinnitus can be attributed to the disruption of coherent oscillatory activity between thalamus and cortex following hearing loss. However, the extent to which this disruption specifically contributes to tinnitus or is simply a consequence of the hearing loss is unclear because the necessary matched controls have not been tested. Here, we rigorously test several predictions made by this model in four groups of participants (tinnitus with hearing loss, tinnitus with clinically normal hearing, no tinnitus with hearing loss and no tinnitus with clinically normal hearing). Magnetoencephalography was used to measure oscillatory brain activity within different frequency bands in a ‘resting’ state and during presentation of a masking noise. Results revealed that low-frequency activity in the delta band (1–4 Hz) was significantly higher in the ‘tinnitus with hearing loss’ group compared to the ‘no tinnitus with normal hearing’ group. A planned comparison indicated that this effect was unlikely to be driven by the hearing loss alone, but could possibly be a consequence of tinnitus and hearing loss. A further interpretative linkage to tinnitus was given by the result that the delta activity tended to reduce when tinnitus was masked. High-frequency activity in the gamma band (25–80 Hz) was not correlated with tinnitus (or hearing loss). The findings partly support the thalamocortical dysrhythmia model and suggest that slow-wave (delta band) activity may be a more reliable correlate of tinnitus than high-frequency activity.
thalamocortical dysrhythmia; tinnitus masking; magnetoencephalography; cortical oscillations
Chronic subjective tinnitus is characterized by abnormal neuronal synchronization in the central auditory system. As shown in a controlled clinical trial, acoustic coordinated reset (CR) neuromodulation causes a significant relief of tinnitus symptoms along with a significant decrease of pathological oscillatory activity in a network comprising auditory and non-auditory brain areas, which is often accompanied with a significant tinnitus pitch change. Here we studied if the tinnitus pitch change correlates with a reduction of tinnitus loudness and/or annoyance as assessed by visual analog scale (VAS) scores. Furthermore, we studied if the changes of the pattern of brain synchrony in tinnitus patients induced by 12 weeks of CR therapy depend on whether or not the patients undergo a pronounced tinnitus pitch change. Therefore, we applied standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) to EEG recordings from two groups of patients with a sustained CR-induced relief of tinnitus symptoms with and without tinnitus pitch change. We found that absolute changes of VAS loudness and VAS annoyance scores significantly correlate with the modulus, i.e., the absolute value, of the tinnitus pitch change. Moreover, as opposed to patients with small or no pitch change we found a significantly stronger decrease in gamma power in patients with pronounced tinnitus pitch change in right parietal cortex (Brodmann area, BA 40), right frontal cortex (BA 9, 46), left temporal cortex (BA 22, 42), and left frontal cortex (BA 4, 6), combined with a significantly stronger increase of alpha (10–12 Hz) activity in the right and left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; BA 32, 24). In addition, we revealed a significantly lower functional connectivity in the gamma band between the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 46) and the right ACC (BA 32) after 12 weeks of CR therapy in patients with pronounced pitch change. Our results indicate a substantial, CR-induced reduction of tinnitus-related auditory binding in a pitch processing network.
tinnitus; coordinated reset neuromodulation; pitch; phantom perception; gamma band activity; electroencephalography
Non-pulsatile tinnitus is considered a subjective auditory phantom phenomenon present in 10 to 15% of the population. Tinnitus as a phantom phenomenon is related to hyperactivity and reorganization of the auditory cortex. Magnetoencephalography studies demonstrate a correlation between gamma band activity in the contralateral auditory cortex and the presence of tinnitus. The present study aims to investigate the relation between objective gamma-band activity in the contralateral auditory cortex and subjective tinnitus loudness scores.
Methods and Findings
In unilateral tinnitus patients (N = 15; 10 right, 5 left) source analysis of resting state electroencephalographic gamma band oscillations shows a strong positive correlation with Visual Analogue Scale loudness scores in the contralateral auditory cortex (max r = 0.73, p<0.05).
Auditory phantom percepts thus show similar sound level dependent activation of the contralateral auditory cortex as observed in normal audition. In view of recent consciousness models and tinnitus network models these results suggest tinnitus loudness is coded by gamma band activity in the contralateral auditory cortex but might not, by itself, be responsible for tinnitus perception.
Subjective tinnitus is characterized by an auditory phantom perception in the absence of any physical sound source. Consequently, in a quiet environment, tinnitus patients differ from control participants because they constantly perceive a sound whereas controls do not. We hypothesized that this difference is expressed by differential activation of distributed cortical networks.
The analysis was based on a sample of 41 participants: 21 patients with chronic tinnitus and 20 healthy control participants. To investigate the architecture of these networks, we used phase locking analysis in the 1–90 Hz frequency range of a minute of resting-state MEG recording. We found: 1) For tinnitus patients: A significant decrease of inter-areal coupling in the alpha (9–12 Hz) band and an increase of inter-areal coupling in the 48–54 Hz gamma frequency range relative to the control group. 2) For both groups: an inverse relationship (r = -.71) of the alpha and gamma network coupling. 3) A discrimination of 83% between the patient and the control group based on the alpha and gamma networks. 4) An effect of manifestation on the distribution of the gamma network: In patients with a tinnitus history of less than 4 years, the left temporal cortex was predominant in the gamma network whereas in patients with tinnitus duration of more than 4 years, the gamma network was more widely distributed including more frontal and parietal regions.
In the here presented data set we found strong support for an alteration of long-range coupling in tinnitus. Long-range coupling in the alpha frequency band was decreased for tinnitus patients while long-range gamma coupling was increased. These changes discriminate well between tinnitus and control participants. We propose a tinnitus model that integrates this finding in the current knowledge about tinnitus. Furthermore we discuss the impact of this finding to tinnitus therapies using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
Tinnitus is a common auditory disorder characterized by a chronic ringing or buzzing “in the ear.”Despite the auditory-perceptual nature of this disorder, a growing number of studies have reported neuroanatomical differences in tinnitus patients outside the auditory-perceptual system. Some have used this evidence to characterize chronic tinnitus as dysregulation of the auditory system, either resulting from inefficient inhibitory control or through the formation of aversive associations with tinnitus. It remains unclear, however, whether these “non-auditory” anatomical markers of tinnitus are related to the tinnitus signal itself, or merely to negative emotional reactions to tinnitus (i.e., tinnitus distress). In the current study, we used anatomical MRI to identify neural markers of tinnitus, and measured their relationship to a variety of tinnitus characteristics and other factors often linked to tinnitus, such as hearing loss, depression, anxiety, and noise sensitivity. In a new cohort of participants, we confirmed that people with chronic tinnitus exhibit reduced gray matter in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) compared to controls matched for age and hearing loss. This effect was driven by reduced cortical surface area, and was not related to tinnitus distress, symptoms of depression or anxiety, noise sensitivity, or other factors. Instead, tinnitus distress was positively correlated with cortical thickness in the anterior insula in tinnitus patients, while symptoms of anxiety and depression were negatively correlated with cortical thickness in subcallosal anterior cingulate cortex (scACC) across all groups. Tinnitus patients also exhibited increased gyrification of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), which was more severe in those patients with constant (vs. intermittent) tinnitus awareness. Our data suggest that the neural systems associated with chronic tinnitus are different from those involved in aversive or distressed reactions to tinnitus.
tinnitus; anatomical MRI; medial prefrontal cortex; subcallosal anterior cingulate
Cortical excitability changes as well as imbalances in excitatory and inhibitory circuits play a distinct pathophysiological role in chronic tinnitus. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the temporoparietal cortex was recently introduced to modulate tinnitus perception. In the current study, the effect of theta-burst stimulation (TBS), a novel rTMS paradigm was investigated in chronic tinnitus. Twenty patients with chronic tinnitus completed the study. Tinnitus severity and loudness were monitored using a tinnitus questionnaire (TQ) and a visual analogue scale (VAS) before each session. Patients received 600 pulses of continuous TBS (cTBS), intermittent TBS (iTBS) and intermediate TBS (imTBS) over left inferior temporal cortex with an intensity of 80% of the individual active or resting motor threshold. Changes in subjective tinnitus perception were measured with a numerical rating scale (NRS).
TBS applied to inferior temporal cortex appeared to be safe. Although half of the patients reported a slight attenuation of tinnitus perception, group analysis resulted in no significant difference when comparing the three specific types of TBS. Converting the NRS into the VAS allowed us to compare the time-course of aftereffects. Only cTBS resulted in a significant short-lasting improvement of the symptoms. In addition there was no significant difference when comparing the responder and non-responder groups regarding their anamnestic and audiological data. The TQ score correlated significantly with the VAS, lower loudness indicating less tinnitus distress.
TBS does not offer a promising outcome for patients with tinnitus in the presented study.
Tinnitus or ringing of the ears is a subjective phantom sensation necessitating behavioral models that objectively demonstrate the existence and quality of the tinnitus sensation. The gap detection test uses the acoustic startle response elicited by loud noise pulses and its gating or suppression by preceding sub-startling prepulses. Gaps in noise bands serve as prepulses, assuming that ongoing tinnitus masks the gap and results in impaired gap detection. This test has shown its reliability in rats, mice, and gerbils. No data exists for the guinea pig so far, although gap detection is similar across mammals and the acoustic startle response is a well-established tool in guinea pig studies of psychiatric disorders and in pharmacological studies. Here we investigated the startle behavior and prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the guinea pig and showed that guinea pigs have a reliable startle response that can be suppressed by 15 ms gaps embedded in narrow noise bands preceding the startle noise pulse. After recovery of auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds from a unilateral noise over-exposure centered at 7 kHz, guinea pigs showed diminished gap-induced reduction of the startle response in frequency bands between 8 and 18 kHz. This suggests the development of tinnitus in frequency regions that showed a temporary threshold shift (TTS) after noise over-exposure. Changes in discharge rate and synchrony, two neuronal correlates of tinnitus, should be reflected in altered ABR waveforms, which would be useful to objectively detect tinnitus and its localization to auditory brainstem structures. Therefore, we analyzed latencies and amplitudes of the first five ABR waves at suprathreshold sound intensities and correlated ABR abnormalities with the results of the behavioral tinnitus testing. Early ABR wave amplitudes up to N3 were increased for animals with tinnitus possibly stemming from hyperactivity and hypersynchrony underlying the tinnitus percept. Animals that did not develop tinnitus after noise exposure showed the opposite effect, a decrease in wave amplitudes for the later waves P4–P5. Changes in latencies were only observed in tinnitus animals, which showed increased latencies. Thus, tinnitus-induced changes in the discharge activity of the auditory nerve and central auditory nuclei are represented in the ABR.
prepulse inhibition; gap detection; noise exposure; behavioral model of tinnitus; auditory brainstem responses
The physiopathological mechanism underlying the tinnitus phenomenon is still the subject of an ongoing debate. Since oscillatory EEG activity is increasingly recognized as a fundamental hallmark of cortical integrative functions, this study investigates deviations from the norm of different resting EEG parameters in patients suffering from chronic tinnitus.
Spectral parameters of resting EEG of male tinnitus patients (n = 8, mean age 54 years) were compared to those of age-matched healthy males (n = 15, mean age 58.8 years). On average, the patient group exhibited higher spectral power over the frequency range of 2-100 Hz. Using LORETA source analysis, the generators of delta, theta, alpha and beta power increases were localized dominantly to left auditory (Brodmann Areas (BA) 41,42, 22), temporo-parietal, insular posterior, cingulate anterior and parahippocampal cortical areas.
Tinnitus patients show a deviation from the norm of different resting EEG parameters, characterized by an overproduction of resting state delta, theta and beta brain activities, providing further support for the microphysiological and magnetoencephalographic evidence pointing to a thalamocortical dysrhythmic process at the source of tinnitus. These results also provide further confirmation that reciprocal involvements of both auditory and associative/paralimbic areas are essential in the generation of tinnitus.
Tinnitus refers to auditory phantom sensation. It is estimated that for 2% of the population this auditory phantom percept severely affects the quality of life, due to tinnitus related distress. Although the overall distress levels do not differ between sexes in tinnitus, females are more influenced by distress than males. Typically, pain, sleep, and depression are perceived as significantly more severe by female tinnitus patients. Studies on gender differences in emotional regulation indicate that females with high depressive symptoms show greater attention to emotion, and use less anti-rumination emotional repair strategies than males.
The objective of this study was to verify whether the activity and connectivity of the resting brain is different for male and female tinnitus patients using resting-state EEG.
Females had a higher mean score than male tinnitus patients on the BDI–II. Female tinnitus patients differ from male tinnitus patients in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) extending to the frontopolar cortex in beta1 and beta2. The OFC is important for emotional processing of sounds. Increased functional alpha connectivity is found between the OFC, insula, subgenual anterior cingulate (sgACC), parahippocampal (PHC) areas and the auditory cortex in females. Our data suggest increased functional connectivity that binds tinnitus-related auditory cortex activity to auditory emotion-related areas via the PHC-sgACC connections resulting in a more depressive state even though the tinnitus intensity and tinnitus-related distress are not different from men. Comparing male tinnitus patients to a control group of males significant differences could be found for beta3 in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The PCC might be related to cognitive and memory-related aspects of the tinnitus percept. Our results propose that sex influences in tinnitus research cannot be ignored and should be taken into account in functional imaging studies related to tinnitus.
Tinnitus, the perception of sound and noise in absence of an auditory stimulus, has been shown to be associated with maladaptive neuronal reorganization and increased activity of the temporoparietal cortex. Transient modulation of tinnitus by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) indicated that these areas are critically involved in the pathophysiology of tinnitus and suggested new treatment strategies. However, the therapeutic efficacy of rTMS in tinnitus is still unclear, individual response is variable, and the optimal stimulation area disputable. Recently, continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) has been put forward as an effective rTMS protocol for the reduction of pathologically enhanced cortical excitability.
48 patients with chronic subjective tinnitus will be included in this randomized, placebo controlled, three-arm trial. The treatment consists of two trains of cTBS applied bilaterally to the secondary auditory cortex, the temporoparietal associaction cortex, or to the lower occiput (sham condition) every working day for four weeks. Primary outcome measure is the change of tinnitus distress as quantified by the Tinnitus Questionnaire (TQ). Secondary outcome measures are tinnitus loudness and annoyance as well as tinnitus change during and after treatment. Audiologic and speech audiometric measurements will be performed to assess potential side effects. The aim of the present trail is to investigate effectiveness and safety of a four weeks cTBS treatment on chronic tinnitus and to compare two areas of stimulation. The results will contribute to clarify the therapeutic capacity of rTMS in tinnitus.
The trial was registered with the clinical trials register of (NCT00518024).
The goal of this study was to observe spontaneous cortical activity and cortical activity modulated by tinnitus-matched sound in tinnitus patients and healthy subjects with no otoneurologic symptoms.
Data were prospectively collected from 50 tinnitus patients and 25 healthy subjects. Cortical activity was recorded in all subjects with eyes closed and open and during photostimulation, hyperventilation and acoustic stimulation using 19-channel quantitative electroencephalography. The sound applied in the tinnitus patients was individually matched with the ability to mask or equal the tinnitus. The maximal and mean amplitude of the delta, theta, alpha and beta waves and the type and amount of the pathologic EEG patterns were noted during each recording. Differences in cortical localization and the influence of sound stimuli on spontaneous cortical activity were evaluated between the groups.
The tinnitus group exhibited decreased delta activity and increased alpha and beta activity. Hyperventilation increased the intensity of the differences. The tinnitus patients had more sharp-slow waves and increased slow wave amplitude. Sound stimuli modified the EEG recordings; the delta and beta wave amplitudes were increased, whereas the alpha-1 wave amplitude was decreased. Acoustic stimulation only slightly affected the temporal region.
Cortical activity in the tinnitus patients clearly differed from that in healthy subjects, i.e., tinnitus is not a “phantom” sign. The changes in cortical activity included decreased delta wave amplitudes, increased alpha-1, beta-1 and beta-h wave amplitudes and pathologic patterns. Cortical activity modifications occurred predominantly in the temporal region. Acoustic stimulation affected spontaneous cortical activity only in tinnitus patients, and although the applied sound was individually matched, the pathologic changes were only slightly improved.
Tinnitus; Cortical Activity; Neurotology
The objective was to examine functional connectivity linked to the auditory system in patients with bothersome tinnitus. Activity was low frequency (< 0.1 Hz), spontaneous blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses at rest. The question was whether the experience of chronic bothersome tinnitus induced changes in synaptic efficacy between co-activated components. Functional connectivity for seed regions in auditory, visual, attention, and control networks was computed across all 2 mm3 brain volumes in 17 patients with moderate-severe bothersome tinnitus (Tinnitus Handicap Index: average 53.5 ± 3.6 (range 38-76)) and 17 age-matched controls.
In bothersome tinnitus, negative correlations reciprocally characterized functional connectivity between auditory and occipital/visual cortex. Negative correlations indicate that when BOLD response magnitudes increased in auditory or visual cortex they decreased in the linked visual or auditory cortex, suggesting reciprocally phase reversed activity between functionally connected locations in tinnitus. Both groups showed similar connectivity with positive correlations within the auditory network. Connectivity for primary visual cortex in tinnitus included extensive negative correlations in the ventral attention temporoparietal junction and in the inferior frontal gyrus and rostral insula - executive control network components. Rostral insula and inferior frontal gyrus connectivity in tinnitus also showed greater negative correlations in occipital cortex.
These results imply that in bothersome tinnitus there is dissociation between activity in auditory cortex and visual, attention and control networks. The reciprocal negative correlations in connectivity between these networks might be maladaptive or reflect adaptations to reduce phantom noise salience and conflict with attention to non-auditory tasks.
tinnitus; human; MRI; connectivity
Tinnitus is an auditory phantom perception that is most likely generated in the central nervous system. Most of the tinnitus research has concentrated on the auditory system. However, it was suggested recently that also non-auditory structures are involved in a global network that encodes subjective tinnitus. We tested this assumption using auditory steady state responses to entrain the tinnitus network and investigated long-range functional connectivity across various non-auditory brain regions.
Methods and Findings
Using whole-head magnetoencephalography we investigated cortical connectivity by means of phase synchronization in tinnitus subjects and healthy controls. We found evidence for a deviating pattern of long-range functional connectivity in tinnitus that was strongly correlated with individual ratings of the tinnitus percept. Phase couplings between the anterior cingulum and the right frontal lobe and phase couplings between the anterior cingulum and the right parietal lobe showed significant condition x group interactions and were correlated with the individual tinnitus distress ratings only in the tinnitus condition and not in the control conditions.
To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that demonstrates existence of a global tinnitus network of long-range cortical connections outside the central auditory system. This result extends the current knowledge of how tinnitus is generated in the brain. We propose that this global extend of the tinnitus network is crucial for the continuos perception of the tinnitus tone and a therapeutical intervention that is able to change this network should result in relief of tinnitus.
Introduction: Some forms of tinnitus are considered to be auditory phantom phenomena related to reorganization and hyperactivity of the auditory central nervous system. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive tool capable of modulating human brain activity, using single pulse or burst stimuli. Burst rTMS has only been performed in the theta range, and has not been used clinically. The authors analyze whether burst TMS at theta (5 Hz), alpha (10 Hz) and beta (20 Hz) frequencies can temporarily suppress narrow band noise/white noise tinnitus, which has been demonstrated to be intractable to tonic stimulation.
Methods: rTMS is performed both in tonic and burst mode in 46 patients contralateral to the tinnitus side, at 5, 10 and 20 Hz. Fourteen placebo negative rTMS responders are further analyzed.
Results: In 5 patients, maximal tinnitus suppression is obtained with theta, in 2 with alpha and in 7 with beta burst stimulation. Burst rTMS suppresses narrow band/white tinnitus much better than tonic rTMS t(13)=6.4, p<.000. Women experience greater suppression of their tinnitus with burst stimulation than men, t(12)=2.9, p<.05. Furthermore left sided tinnitus is perceived as more distressing on the TQ than right sided tinnitus, t(12)=3.2, p<.01. The lower the tinnitus pitch the more effectively rTMS suppresses tinnitus(r=-0.65, p<0.05).
Discussion: Burst rTMS can be used clinically, not only theta burst, but also alpha and beta burst. Burst rTMS is capable of suppressing narrow band/white noise tinnitus very much better than tonic rTMS. This could be due the simple fact that burst neuromodulation is more powerful than tonic neuromodulation or to a differential effect of burst and tonic stimulation on the lemniscal and extralemniscal auditory system. In some patients only alpha or beta burst rTMS is capable of suppressing tinnitus, and theta burst not. Therefore in future rTMS studies it could be worthwhile not to limit burst stimulation to theta burst rTMS.
burst; neuromodulation; tinnitus; tonic; TMS
An inherent limitation of functional imaging studies is their correlational approach. More information about critical contributions of specific brain regions can be gained by focal transient perturbation of neural activity in specific regions with non-invasive focal brain stimulation methods. Functional imaging studies have revealed that tinnitus is related to alterations in neuronal activity of central auditory pathways. Modulation of neuronal activity in auditory cortical areas by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can reduce tinnitus loudness and, if applied repeatedly, exerts therapeutic effects, confirming the relevance of auditory cortex activation for tinnitus generation and persistence. Measurements of oscillatory brain activity before and after rTMS demonstrate that the same stimulation protocol has different effects on brain activity in different patients, presumably related to interindividual differences in baseline activity in the clinically heterogeneous study cohort. In addition to alterations in auditory pathways, imaging techniques also indicate the involvement of non-auditory brain areas, such as the fronto-parietal “awareness” network and the non-tinnitus-specific distress network consisting of the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and amygdale. Involvement of the hippocampus and the parahippocampal region putatively reflects the relevance of memory mechanisms in the persistence of the phantom percept and the associated distress. Preliminary studies targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and the parietal cortex with rTMS and with transcranial direct current stimulation confirm the relevance of the mentioned non-auditory networks. Available data indicate the important value added by brain stimulation as a complementary approach to neuroimaging for identifying the neuronal correlates of the various clinical aspects of tinnitus.
chronic tinnitus; neuromodulation; neuroimaging; neuronal correlates; brain stimulation
Subjective tinnitus is characterized by the conscious perception of a phantom sound which is usually more prominent under silence. Resting state recordings without any auditory stimulation demonstrated a decrease of cortical alpha activity in temporal areas of subjects with an ongoing tinnitus perception. This is often interpreted as an indicator for enhanced excitability of the auditory cortex in tinnitus. In this study we want to further investigate this effect by analysing the moment-to-moment variability of the alpha activity in temporal areas. Magnetoencephalographic resting state recordings of 21 tinnitus subjects and 21 healthy controls were analysed with respect to the mean and the variability of spectral power in the alpha frequency band over temporal areas. A significant decrease of auditory alpha activity was detected for the low alpha frequency band (8–10 Hz) but not for the upper alpha band (10–12 Hz). Furthermore, we found a significant decrease of alpha variability for the tinnitus group. This result was significant for the lower alpha frequency range and not significant for the upper alpha frequencies. Tinnitus subjects with a longer history of tinnitus showed less variability of their auditory alpha activity which might be an indicator for reduced adaptability of the auditory cortex in chronic tinnitus.
Chronic tinnitus is a brain network disorder with involvement of auditory and non-auditory areas. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the temporal cortex has been investigated for the treatment of tinnitus. Several small studies suggest that motor cortex excitability is altered in people with tinnitus. We retrospectively analysed data from 231 patients with chronic tinnitus and 120 healthy controls by pooling data from different studies. Variables of interest were resting motor threshold (RMT), short-interval intra-cortical inhibition (SICI), intra-cortical facilitation (ICF), and cortical silent period (CSP). 118 patients were tested twice - before and after ten rTMS treatment sessions over the left temporal cortex. In tinnitus patients SICI and ICF were increased and CSP was shortened as compared to healthy controls. There was no group difference in RMT. Treatment related amelioration of tinnitus symptoms were correlated with normalisations in SICI. These findings confirm earlier studies of abnormal motor cortex excitability in tinnitus patients. Moreover our longitudinal data suggest that altered SICI may reflect a state parameter, whereas CSP and ICF may rather mirror a trait-like predisposing factor of tinnitus. These findings are new and innovative as they enlarge the knowledge about basic physiologic and neuroplastic processes in tinnitus.
Tinnitus is an auditory sensation characterized by the perception of sound or noise in the absence of any external sound source. Based on neurobiological research, it is generally accepted that most forms of tinnitus are attributable to maladaptive plasticity due to damage to auditory system. Changes have been observed in auditory structures such as the inferior colliculus, the thalamus and the auditory cortex as well as in non-auditory brain areas. However, the observed changes show great variability, hence lacking a conclusive picture. One of the reasons might be the selection of inhomogeneous groups in data analysis.
The aim of the present study was to delineate the differences between the neural networks involved in narrow band noise and pure tone tinnitus conducting LORETA based source analysis of resting state EEG.
Results demonstrated that narrow band noise tinnitus patients differ from pure tone tinnitus patients in the lateral frontopolar (BA 10), PCC and the parahippocampal area for delta, beta and gamma frequency bands, respectively. The parahippocampal-PCC current density differences might be load dependent, as noise-like tinnitus constitutes multiple frequencies in contrast to pure tone tinnitus. The lateral frontopolar differences might be related to pitch specific memory retrieval.
Subjective tinnitus is the perception of a sound in the absence of any physical source. It has been shown that tinnitus is associated with hyperactivity of the auditory cortices. Accompanying this hyperactivity, changes in non-auditory brain structures have also been reported. However, there have been no studies on the long-range information flow between these regions.
Using Magnetoencephalography, we investigated the long-range cortical networks of chronic tinnitus sufferers (n = 23) and healthy controls (n = 24) in the resting state. A beamforming technique was applied to reconstruct the brain activity at source level and the directed functional coupling between all voxels was analyzed by means of Partial Directed Coherence. Within a cortical network, hubs are brain structures that either influence a great number of other brain regions or that are influenced by a great number of other brain regions. By mapping the cortical hubs in tinnitus and controls we report fundamental group differences in the global networks, mainly in the gamma frequency range. The prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex and the parieto-occipital region were core structures in this network. The information flow from the global network to the temporal cortex correlated positively with the strength of tinnitus distress.
With the present study we suggest that the hyperactivity of the temporal cortices in tinnitus is integrated in a global network of long-range cortical connectivity. Top-down influence from the global network on the temporal areas relates to the subjective strength of the tinnitus distress.
Several years ago, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the auditory cortex has been introduced as a treatment approach for chronic tinnitus. Even if this treatment is beneficial for a subgroup of patients, the overall effects are limited. This limitation may be due to the fact that the auditory cortex is only one of several brain areas involved in tinnitus. Whereas auditory areas are considered to code for tinnitus loudness, conscious perception of and attention allocation to tinnitus is supposed to be reflected by network activity involving frontal and parietal cortical areas. The aim of the present study is to influence this frontoparietal network more efficiently by perturbing the most important nodes with rTMS.
This is a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study. Patients receive rTMS treatment on 10 consecutive working days using either the multisite rTMS protocol (left dorsolateral prefrontal, 1,000 stimuli, 20 Hz; left temporoparietal, 1,000 stimuli, 1 Hz; right temporoparietal stimulation, 1,000 stimuli, 1 Hz) or a single-site protocol (unilateral stimulation of the temporoparietal cortex, 3,000 stimuli, 1 Hz). Individuals aged 18 to 70 years with chronic tinnitus ≥6-month duration and a Tinnitus Handicap Inventory score ≥38 are recruited for the study. A total of 50 patients are needed to detect a clinical relevant change of tinnitus severity (α = 0.05; 1 – β = 0.80). Primary outcome measures are the change in the Tinnitus Questionnaire score from baseline to the end of treatment as well as the number of treatment responders as defined by a reduction in the Tinnitus Questionnaire score of ≥5 points. Furthermore, changes in brain structure and activity are assessed using (functional) magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography in the resting state. Those measurements are also performed in 25 healthy control subjects.
This study is designed to reveal whether network stimulation is superior to single-site stimulation in the treatment of chronic tinnitus. Furthermore, the comparison between tinnitus patients and healthy controls and the longitudinal effects of both rTMS treatment protocols on brain structure and function allow inferences to be made about the neural correlates of tinnitus.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; Chronic tinnitus; Neuromodulation; Network
A significant proportion of the population suffers from tinnitus, a bothersome auditory phantom perception that can severely alter the quality of life. Numerous experimental studies suggests that a maladaptive plasticity of the auditory and limbic cortical areas may underlie tinnitus. Accordingly, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been repeatedly used with success to reduce tinnitus intensity. The potential of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), another promising method of noninvasive brain stimulation, to relieve tinnitus has not been explored systematically. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled and balanced order design, 20 patients suffering from chronic untreatable tinnitus were submitted to 20 minutes of 1 mA anodal, cathodal and sham tDCS targeting the left temporoparietal area. The primary outcome measure was a change in tinnitus intensity or discomfort assessed with a Visual Analogic Scale (VAS) change-scale immediately after tDCS and 1 hour later. Compared to sham tDCS, anodal tDCS significantly reduced tinnitus intensity immediately after stimulation; whereas cathodal tDCS failed to do so. The variances of the tinnitus intensity and discomfort VAS change-scales increased dramatically after anodal and cathodal tDCS, whereas they remained virtually unchanged after sham tDCS. Moreover, several patients unexpectedly reported longer-lasting effects (at least several days) such as tinnitus improvement, worsening, or changes in tinnitus features, more frequently after real than sham tDCS. Anodal tDCS is a promising therapeutic tool for modulating tinnitus perception. Moreover, both anodal and cathodal tDCS seem able to alter tinnitus perception and could, thus, be used to trigger plastic changes.
Tinnitus; Transcranial direct current stimulation; Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; Noninvasive brain stimulation; Brain plasticity