Neuronal connectivity and interactions between the auditory and limbic systems. Effects of noise and tinnitus

Hear Res. 2012 Jun;288(1-2):34-46. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Acoustic experience such as sound, noise, or absence of sound induces structural or functional changes in the central auditory system but can also affect limbic regions such as the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is particularly sensitive to sound with valence or meaning, such as vocalizations, crying or music. The amygdala plays a central role in auditory fear conditioning, regulation of the acoustic startle response and can modulate auditory cortex plasticity. A stressful acoustic stimulus, such as noise, causes amygdala-mediated release of stress hormones via the HPA-axis, which may have negative effects on health, as well as on the central nervous system. On the contrary, short-term exposure to stress hormones elicits positive effects such as hearing protection. The hippocampus can affect auditory processing by adding a temporal dimension, as well as being able to mediate novelty detection via theta wave phase-locking. Noise exposure affects hippocampal neurogenesis and LTP in a manner that affects structural plasticity, learning and memory. Tinnitus, typically induced by hearing malfunctions, is associated with emotional stress, depression and anatomical changes of the hippocampus. In turn, the limbic system may play a role in the generation as well as the suppression of tinnitus indicating that the limbic system may be essential for tinnitus treatment. A further understanding of auditory-limbic interactions will contribute to future treatment strategies of tinnitus and noise trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Auditory Pathways / metabolism
  • Auditory Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Auditory Perception
  • Cognition
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Memory
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Tinnitus / metabolism
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*
  • Tinnitus / psychology


  • Hormones