Purpose: The neural mechanisms that give rise to the phantom sound of tinnitus have not been fully elucidated. Neuroimaging studies have revealed abnormalities in resting-state activity that could represent the neural signature of tinnitus, but there is considerable heterogeneity in the data. To address this issue, we conducted a meta-analysis of published neuroimaging studies aimed at identifying a common core of resting-state brain abnormalities in tinnitus patients. Methods: A systematic search was conducted for whole-brain resting-state neuroimaging studies with SPECT, PET and functional MRI that compared chronic tinnitus patients with healthy controls. The authors searched PubMed, Science Direct, Web of Knowledge and Embase databases for neuroimaging studies on tinnitus published up to September 2016. From each study, coordinates were extracted from clusters with significant differences between tinnitus subjects and controls. Meta-analysis was performed using the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) method. Results: Data were included from nine resting-state neuroimaging studies that reported a total of 51 distinct foci. The meta-analysis identified consistent regions of increased resting-state brain activity in tinnitus patients relative to controls that included, bilaterally, the insula, middle temporal gyrus (MTG), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), parahippocampal gyrus, cerebellum posterior lobe and right superior frontal gyrus. Moreover, decreased brain activity was only observed in the left cuneus and right thalamus. Conclusions: The current meta-analysis is, to our knowledge, the first to demonstrate a characteristic pattern of resting-state brain abnormalities that may serve as neuroimaging markers and contribute to the understanding of neuropathophysiological mechanisms for chronic tinnitus.
Keywords: brain networks; meta-analysis; neuroimaging; resting-state fMRI; tinnitus.