Monitoring for epilepsy reveals tinnitus activity

Treating tinnitus—a condition where people experience sound, often described as ringing, that isn’t really there—may require more than targeting a localized part of the hearing system.

Researchers with the multinational Human Brain Research Laboratory, whose members include University of Iowa investigators, discovered activity spanned a large portion of the brain when they monitored one particular patient with tinnitus. The 50-year-old man came to the UI for treatment of severe epilepsy. When specialized electrodes were implanted into his brain, investigators could study brain activity during periods when tinnitus was relatively stronger and weaker.

They found the tinnitus-linked activity extended far beyond circumscribed auditory cortical regions to encompass almost all of the auditory cortex, along with other parts of the brain. The study appeared in the April 23 issue of Current Biology. The findings may help to inform treatments such as neurofeedback, electromagnetic brain stimulation, or pharmacological approaches.