Auditory cortex stimulation for tinnitus

Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2007;97(Pt 2):451-62. doi: 10.1007/978-3-211-33081-4_52.


Functional imaging techniques have demonstrated a relationship between the intensity of tinnitus and the degree of reorganization of the primary auditory cortex. Studies in experimental animals and humans have revealed that tinnitus is associated with a synchronized hyperactivity in the auditory cortex and proposed that the underlying pathophysiological mechanism is thalamocortical dysrhythmia; hence, decreased auditory stimulation results in decreased firing rate, and decreased lateral inhibition. Consequently, the surrounding brain area becomes hyperactive, firing at gamma band rates; this is considered a necessary precondition of auditory consciousness, and also tinnitus. Synchronization of the gamma band activity could possibly induce a topographical reorganization based on Hebbian mechanisms. Therefore, it seems logical to try to suppress tinnitus by modifying the tinnitus-related auditory cortex reorganization and hyperactivity. This can be achieved using neuronavigation-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is capable of modulating cortical activity. If TMS is capable of suppressing tinnitus, the effect should be maintained by implanting electrodes over the area of electrophysiological signal abnormality on the auditory cortex. The results in the first patients treated by auditory cortex stimulation demonstrate a statistically significant tinnitus suppression in cases of unilateral pure tone tinnitus without suppression of white or narrow band noise. Hence, auditory cortex stimulation could become a physiologically guided treatment for a selected category of patients with severe tinnitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / blood supply
  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neuronavigation / methods
  • Tinnitus / epidemiology
  • Tinnitus / pathology*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology
  • Tinnitus / therapy*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods