Tinnitus as a plastic phenomenon and its possible neural underpinnings in the dorsal cochlear nucleus

Hear Res. 2005 Aug;206(1-2):200-26. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2005.02.013.


Tinnitus displays many features suggestive of plastic changes in the nervous system. These can be categorized based on the types of manipulations that induce them. We have categorized the various forms of plasticity that characterize tinnitus and searched for their neural underpinnings in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). This structure has been implicated as a possible site for the generation of tinnitus-producing signals owing to its tendency to become hyperactive following exposure to tinnitus inducing agents such as intense sound and cisplatin. In this paper, we review the many forms of plasticity that have been uncovered in anatomical, physiological and neurochemical studies of the DCN. Some of these plastic changes have been observed as consequences of peripheral injury or as fluctuations in the behavior and chemical activities of DCN neurons, while others can be induced by stimulation of auditory or even non-auditory structures. We show that many parallels can be drawn between the various forms of plasticity displayed by tinnitus and the various forms of neural plasticity which have been defined in the DCN. These parallels lend further support to the hypothesis that the DCN is an important site for the generation and modulation of tinnitus-producing signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cochlear Nerve / injuries
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiopathology
  • Hearing Loss / complications
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous
  • Tinnitus / etiology*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*