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Technique to pinpoint tinnitus

6th October 2009

New US research has located the area of the brain that affects tinnitus sufferers.

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Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the human ear when an external cause for the sound is absent.

Athough doctors have previously thought that tinnitus was caused by problems within the ear itself, they now believe it to have a neurological basis.

For the purposes of the recent study, a team of researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan used a brain scanner based on the magnetic fields generated by the brain's electrical activity.

The non-invasive brain imaging technique, known as magnetoencephalography (MEG), would allow physicians to target the area of the brain involved in tinnitus in the hope of discovering a general cure.

Study co-author Michael Seidman, director of the Division of Otologic/Neurotolgic Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, said that doctors have not had a way of pinpointing the specific location of tinnitus in the brain until now.

His research team Henry Ford Hospital has already tried inserting chips into the brain which would interfere with the tinnitus generated from within the brains of sufferers.

The researchers at Henry Ford Hospital conducted MEG on 17 patients who had tinnitus and 10 who did not.

Patients whose tinnitus was in one ear only had the greatest amount of related brain activity in the auditory part of the brain in the side of the head opposite from the ear.

Patients who had tinnitus in both ears had strong activity in the auditory cortex of both the left and right sides of the brain.
 
Seidman said that another part of the brain that lights up in MEG tests on tinnitus sufferers is the limbic system, which is believed to govern how we react to things.

He said that this may explain why some patients can fairly successfully ignore their tinnitus while others find themselves fixated on it.

Co-author Susan Bower, of the Department of Neurology at Henry Ford Hospital said that, since MEG can detect brain activity occurring at each instant in time scientists can actually see the areas in the brain that are generating the patient's tinnitus symptoms.

Seidman said that, with PET and fMRI, most of the auditory cortex of the brain lights up with activity during imaging, whereas MEG is a much more sophisticated machine that can identify a specific tone or topic point.

MEG scanning is presently used for patients with operable brain tumours, as well as epilepsy sufferers.

 

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Comments

Anonymous

Tuesday 27th October 2009 @ 12:11

Despite this latest research, we are far from knowing exactly what the pattern of brain responses is that underlies tinnitus. Brain imaging research has so far demonstrated that tinnitus is certainly linked to some abnormal patterns of brain activity, but there is no systematic evidence to show how that the location of the activity is linked to the qualities of the tinnitus. This is according to Professor Deb Hall who is a professional advisor to the British Tinnitus Association.


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