Tinnitus and temporary hearing loss result in differential noise-induced spatial reorganization of brain activity

Brain Struct Funct. 2018 Jun;223(5):2343-2360. doi: 10.1007/s00429-018-1635-z. Epub 2018 Feb 27.


Loud noise frequently results in hyperacusis or hearing loss (i.e., increased or decreased sensitivity to sound). These conditions are often accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and changes in spontaneous neuronal activity (SNA). The ability to differentiate the contributions of hyperacusis and hearing loss to neural correlates of tinnitus has yet to be achieved. Towards this purpose, we used a combination of behavior, electrophysiology, and imaging tools to investigate two models of noise-induced tinnitus (either with temporary hearing loss or with permanent hearing loss). Manganese (Mn2+) uptake was used as a measure of calcium channel function and as an index of SNA. Manganese uptake was examined in vivo with manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI) in key auditory brain regions implicated in tinnitus. Following acoustic trauma, MEMRI, the SNA index, showed evidence of spatially dependent rearrangement of Mn2+ uptake within specific brain nuclei (i.e., reorganization). Reorganization of Mn2+ uptake in the superior olivary complex and cochlear nucleus was dependent upon tinnitus status. However, reorganization of Mn2+ uptake in the inferior colliculus was dependent upon hearing sensitivity. Furthermore, following permanent hearing loss, reduced Mn2+ uptake was observed. Overall, by combining testing for hearing sensitivity, tinnitus, and SNA, our data move forward the possibility of discriminating the contributions of hyperacusis and hearing loss to tinnitus.

Keywords: Acoustic startle reflex; Gap detection; Hearing loss; Hyperactivity; Hyperacusis; MEMRI; Manganese enhanced MRI; Neuronal activity; Neuroplasticity; Permanent threshold shift; Temporary threshold shift; Tinnitus.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • Hearing Loss / etiology*
  • Hearing Loss / pathology
  • Hearing Tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Tinnitus / etiology*
  • Tinnitus / pathology