Using a single-blind placebo-controlled design, we mapped lidocaine related changes in neural activity, measured by regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) with (15)O-H(2)O positron emission tomography. Intravenous lidocaine produced both increases and decreases in the loudness of tinnitus. The change in tinnitus loudness was associated with a statistically significant change in neural activity in the right temporal lobe in auditory association cortex. Decreases in tinnitus loudness resulted in larger changes in rCBF than increases. The unilateral activation pattern associated with tinnitus, in contrast with the bilateral activation produced by a real sound, suggests that tinnitus originates in the central auditory system rather than the cochlea. In addition, generalized lidocaine effects were found in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and a region spanning the Rolandic fissure.