Understanding tinnitus: the dorsal cochlear nucleus, organization and plasticity

Brain Res. 2012 Nov 16;1485:40-53. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.03.044. Epub 2012 Mar 27.


Tinnitus, the perception of a phantom sound, is a common consequence of damage to the auditory periphery. A major goal of tinnitus research is to find the loci of the neural changes that underlie the disorder. Crucial to this endeavor has been the development of an animal behavioral model of tinnitus, so that neural changes can be correlated with behavioral evidence of tinnitus. Three major lines of evidence implicate the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) in tinnitus. First, elevated spontaneous activity in the DCN is correlated with peripheral damage and tinnitus. Second, there are somatosensory inputs to the DCN that can modulate spontaneous activity and might mediate the somatic-auditory interactions seen in tinnitus patients. Third, we have found a subpopulation of DCN neurons in the adult rat that express doublecortin, a plasticity-related protein. The expression of this protein may reflect a role of these neurons in the neural reorganization causing tinnitus. However, there is a problem in extending the findings in the rodent DCN to humans. Classic studies state that the structure of the primate DCN is quite different from that of rodents, with primates lacking granule cells, the recipients of somatosensory input. To address the possibility of major species differences in DCN organization, we compared Nissl-stained sections of the DCN in five different species. In contrast to earlier reports, our data suggest that the organization of the primate DCN is not dramatically different from that of the rodents, and validate the use of animal data in the study of tinnitus. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Tinnitus Neuroscience.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Chinchilla
  • Cochlear Nucleus / pathology*
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiopathology
  • Doublecortin Protein
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Tinnitus / pathology*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology