Brain regions responsible for tinnitus distress and loudness: a resting-state FMRI study

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 25;8(6):e67778. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067778. Print 2013.


Subjective tinnitus is characterized by the perception of phantom sound without an external auditory stimulus. We hypothesized that abnormal functionally connected regions in the central nervous system might underlie the pathophysiology of chronic subjective tinnitus. Statistical significance of functional connectivity (FC) strength is affected by the regional autocorrelation coefficient (AC). In this study, we used resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) and measured regional mean FC strength (mean cross-correlation coefficient between a region and all other regions without taking into account the effect of AC (rGC) and with taking into account the effect of AC (rGCa) to elucidate brain regions related to tinnitus symptoms such as distress, depression and loudness. Consistent with previous studies, tinnitus loudness was not related to tinnitus-related distress and depressive state. Although both rGC and rGCa revealed similar brain regions where the values showed a statistically significant relationship with tinnitus-related symptoms, the regions for rGCa were more localized and more clearly delineated the regions related specifically to each symptom. The rGCa values in the bilateral rectus gyri were positively correlated and those in the bilateral anterior and middle cingulate gyri were negatively correlated with distress and depressive state. The rGCa values in the bilateral thalamus, the bilateral hippocampus, and the left caudate were positively correlated and those in the left medial superior frontal gyrus and the left posterior cingulate gyrus were negatively correlated with tinnitus loudness. These results suggest that distinct brain regions are responsible for tinnitus symptoms. The regions for distress and depressive state are known to be related to depression, while the regions for tinnitus loudness are known to be related to the default mode network and integration of multi-sensory information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loudness Perception*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Rest*
  • Tinnitus / complications*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.