Tinnitus May Extend Well Beyond Auditory Brain Areas A rare case study may shed light on the difference between “phantom” sounds and normal sound representations in tinnitus, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. A team from the University of Iowa and the United Kingdom’s Newcastle University observed brain activity in a 50-year-old man ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   July 01, 2015
Tinnitus May Extend Well Beyond Auditory Brain Areas
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Hearing Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   July 01, 2015
Tinnitus May Extend Well Beyond Auditory Brain Areas
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.20072015.16
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.20072015.16
A rare case study may shed light on the difference between “phantom” sounds and normal sound representations in tinnitus, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.
A team from the University of Iowa and the United Kingdom’s Newcastle University observed brain activity in a 50-year-old man who required invasive electrode monitoring for epilepsy prior to surgery and who also had tinnitus in both ears stemming from hearing loss. The uncommon concurrence of both conditions allowed the scientists to take an unprecedented look into the brain mechanisms of tinnitus.
“Perhaps the most remarkable finding was that activity directly linked to tinnitus was very extensive, and spanned a large proportion of the part of the brain we measured from,” says William Sedley of Newcastle’s Institute of Neuroscience, who co-authored the study with Iowa’s Phillip Gander. “In contrast, the brain responses to a sound we played that mimicked the tinnitus were localized to a tiny area.”
Sedley and Gander compared brain signals from tinnitus when the patient reported it relatively stronger or weaker, and they found the tinnitus extended not only to almost all of the auditory cortex, but also to other parts of the brain where normal sound representations are not found. This extensiveness, the authors say, provides a breakthrough to understanding tinnitus.

The tinnitus not only extended to almost all of the auditory cortex, but also to other parts of the brain where normal sound representations are not found.

“It suggests that tinnitus may not simply ‘fill in the gap’ left by hearing damage,” Gander says, “but also actively infiltrates beyond this into wider brain systems.”
One in five people experience tinnitus, the study notes, and although most people with the condition find the ringing or other sounds annoying, it can be debilitating for some. This new research could lead to more effective treatments, suggesting that physicians may need to treat the condition outside of the hearing system.
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July 2015
Volume 20, Issue 7