Aberrant spontaneous brain activity in chronic tinnitus patients revealed by resting-state functional MRI

Yu-Chen Chen, Jian Zhang, Xiao-Wei Li, Wenqing Xia, Xu Feng, Bo Gao, Sheng-Hong Ju, Jian Wang, Richard Salvi, Gao-Jun Teng
NeuroImage: Clinical 2014, 6: 222-8

OBJECTIVE: The neural mechanisms that give rise to the phantom sound of tinnitus are poorly understood. This study aims to investigate whether aberrant spontaneous brain activity exists in chronic tinnitus patients using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 31 patients with chronic tinnitus patients and 32 healthy age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy controls were prospectively examined. Both groups had normal hearing thresholds. We calculated the amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (ALFFs) of fMRI signals to measure spontaneous neuronal activity and detect the relationship between fMRI information and clinical data of tinnitus.

RESULTS: Compared with healthy controls, we observed significant increased ALFF within several selected regions including the right middle temporal gyrus (MTG), right superior frontal gyrus (SFG), and right angular gyrus; decreased ALFF was detected in the left cuneus, right middle occipital gyrus and bilateral thalamus. Moreover, tinnitus distress correlated positively with increased ALFF in right MTG and right SFG; tinnitus duration correlated positively with higher ALFF values in right SFG.

CONCLUSIONS: The present study confirms that chronic tinnitus patients have aberrant ALFF in many brain regions, which is associated with specific clinical tinnitus characteristics. ALFF disturbance in specific brain regions might be used to identify the neuro-pathophysiological mechanisms in chronic tinnitus patients.

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