A novel behavioural approach to detecting tinnitus in the guinea pig

J Neurosci Methods. 2013 Mar 15;213(2):188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2012.12.023. Epub 2013 Jan 3.


Tinnitus, the perception of sound in the absence of an external stimulus, is a particularly challenging condition to demonstrate in animals. In any animal model, objective confirmation of tinnitus is essential before we can study the neural changes that produce it. A gap detection method, based on prepulse inhibition of the whole-body startle reflex, is often used as a behavioural test for tinnitus in rodents. However, in the guinea pig the whole-body startle reflex is subject to rapid habituation and hence is not an ideal behavioural measure. By contrast, in this species the Preyer or pinna reflex is a very reliable indicator of the startle response and is much less subject to habituation. We have developed a novel adaptation of the gap detection paradigm, which uses the Preyer reflex to measure the startle response, rather than whole-body movement. Using this method, we have demonstrated changes in gap detection, in guinea pigs where tinnitus had been induced by the administration of a high dose of salicylate. Our data indicate that the Preyer reflex gap detection method is a reliable test for tinnitus in guinea pigs.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*
  • Tinnitus / diagnosis*