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Susan E Shore, Larry E Roberts, and Berthold Langguth (2016)

Maladaptive plasticity in tinnitus-triggers, mechanisms and treatment

Nature Reviews Neurology, 12:150-160.

Tinnitus is a phantom auditory sensation that reduces quality of life for millions worldwide and for which there is no medical cure. Most cases are associated with hearing loss caused by the aging process or noise exposure. Because exposure to loud recreational sound is common among youthful populations, young persons are at increasing risk. Head or neck injuries can also trigger the development of tinnitus, as altered somatosensory input can affect auditory pathways and lead to tinnitus or modulate its intensity. Emotional and attentional state may play a role in tinnitus development and maintenance via top-down mechanisms. Thus, military in combat are particularly at risk due to combined hearing loss, somatosensory system disturbances and emotional stress. Neuroscience research has identified neural changes related to tinnitus that commence at the cochlear nucleus and extend to the auditory cortex and brain regions beyond. Maladaptive neural plasticity appears to underlie these neural changes, as it results in increased spontaneous firing rates and synchrony among neurons in central auditory structures that may generate the phantom percept. This review highlights the links between animal and human studies, including several therapeutic approaches that have been developed, which aim to target the neuroplastic changes underlying tinnitus.

neural plasticity, tinnitus, auditory perception