An Integrative Tinnitus Model Based on Sensory Precision

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Dec;39(12):799-812. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.10.004. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


Tinnitus is a common disorder that often complicates hearing loss. Its mechanisms are incompletely understood. Current theories proposing pathophysiology from the ear to the cortex cannot individually - or collectively - explain the range of experimental evidence available. We propose a new framework, based on predictive coding, in which spontaneous activity in the subcortical auditory pathway constitutes a 'tinnitus precursor' which is normally ignored as imprecise evidence against the prevailing percept of 'silence'. Extant models feature as contributory mechanisms acting to increase either the intensity of the precursor or its precision. If precision (i.e., postsynaptic gain) rises sufficiently then tinnitus is perceived. Perpetuation arises through focused attention, which further increases the precision of the precursor, and resetting of the default prediction to expect tinnitus.

Keywords: auditory cortex; precision; predictive coding; tinnitus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*