Objective: To explore the effect of electrical stimulation at auricular points (EAS) combined with sound masking on the expression of cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) in the auditory cortex of tinnitus rats.
Methods: A total of 27 adult male SD rats were randomly divided into a control group, a model group and an EAS group. The rats in the model group and the EAS group were intervened with intraperitoneal injection of sodium salicylate to induce tinnitus model, while the rats in the control group were intervened with injection of 0.9% NaCl solution. After the model was successfully established, the rats in the EAS group were treated with electrical stimulation at "Shenmen" (TF4) and "Yidan" (CO11), combined with sound masking; the treatment was given once a day for 15 days. The gap prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle (GPIAS) and prepulse inhibition (PPI) testing were performed using the acoustic startle reflex starter package for rats. The expression of BDNF, TrkB, CREB and p-CREB in the auditory cortex of each group were measured with Western Blot analysis.
Results: ① Compared with the control group, the GPIAS values in 12 kHz, 16 kHz, 20 kHz and 28 kHz were significantly decreased in the model group (all P<0.05); compared with the model group, GPIAS values in 12 kHz, 16 kHz, 20 kHz and 28 kHz were significantly increased in the EAS group (all P<0.05). ② Compared with the control group, the expression of BDNF and p-CREB in the model group was significantly increased (P<0.01), and the expression of TrkB in the model group was significantly increased (P<0.05); the differences of expression of BDNF, TrkB, CREB and p-CREB between the model group and the EAS group had no statistics significance (all P>0.05).
Conclusion: EAS could improve the GPIAS values of high-frequency background sound in tinnitus rats, which may be related with the upregulation of the BDNF/TrkB/CREB signaling pathway in the auditory cortex, leading to the reversion of the maladaptive plasticity.
Keywords: auricular points; brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF); cAMP response element binding protein (CREB); electrical stimulation; sound masking; tinnitus; tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB).