Loss of central inhibition has been hypothesized to underpin tinnitus and impact auditory acuity. Taurine, a partial agonist at inhibitory glycine and γ-amino butyric acid receptors, was added to the daily diet of rats to examine its effects on chronic tinnitus and normal auditory discrimination. Eight rats were unilaterally exposed once to a loud sound to induce tinnitus. The rats were trained and tested in an operant task shown to be sensitive to tinnitus. An equivalent unexposed control group was run in parallel. Months after exposure, 6 of the exposed rats showed significant evidence of chronic tinnitus. Two concentrations of taurine in drinking water were given over several weeks (attaining average daily doses of 67 mg/kg and 294 mg/kg). Water consumption was unaffected. Three main effects were obtained: (1) The high taurine dose significantly attenuated tinnitus, which returned to near pre-treatment levels following washout. (2) Auditory discrimination was significantly improved in unexposed control rats at both doses. (3) As indicated by lever pressing, taurine at both doses had a significant group-equivalent stimulant effect. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that taurine attenuates tinnitus and improves auditory discrimination by increasing inhibitory tone and decreasing noise in the auditory pathway.
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