Neuroanatomical Alterations in Patients With Tinnitus Before and After Sound Therapy: A Combined VBM and SCN Study

Front Hum Neurosci. 2021 Jan 18;14:607452. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.607452. eCollection 2020.


Many neuroanatomical alterations have been detected in patients with tinnitus in previous studies. However, little is known about the morphological and structural covariance network (SCN) changes before and after long-term sound therapy. This study aimed to explore alterations in brain anatomical and SCN changes in patients with idiopathic tinnitus using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis 24 weeks before and after sound therapy. Thirty-three tinnitus patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans at baseline and after 24 weeks of sound therapy. Twenty-six age- and sex-matched healthy control (HC) individuals also underwent two scans over a 24-week interval; 3.0T MRI and high-resolution 3D structural images were acquired with a 3D-BRAVO pulse sequence. Structural image data preprocessing was performed using the VBM8 toolbox. The Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) score was assessed for the severity of tinnitus before and after treatment. Two-way mixed model analysis of variance (ANOVA) and post hoc analyses were performed to determine differences between the two groups (patients and HCs) and between the two scans (at baseline and on the 24th week). Student-Newman-Keuls (SNK) tests were used in the post hoc analysis. Interaction effects between the two groups and the two scans demonstrated significantly different gray matter (GM) volume in the right parahippocampus gyrus, right caudate, left superior temporal gyrus, left cuneus gyrus, and right calcarine gyrus; we found significantly decreased GM volume in the above five brain regions among the tinnitus patients before sound therapy (baseline) compared to that in the HC group. The 24-week sound therapy group demonstrated significantly greater brain volume compared with the baseline group among these brain regions. We did not find significant differences in brain regions between the 24-week sound therapy and HC groups. The SCN results showed that the left superior temporal gyrus and left rolandic operculum were significantly different in nodal efficiency, nodal degree centrality, and nodal betweenness centrality after FDR correction. This study characterized the effect of sound therapy on brain GM volume, especially in the left superior temporal lobe. Notably, sound therapy had a normalizing effect on tinnitus patients.

Keywords: VBM; fMRI; sound therapy; structural covariance network; tinnitus.