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November 14, 2016
Can Animal Models Contribute to Understanding Tinnitus Heterogeneity in Humans?

REVIEW ARTICLE by Jos J. Eggermont (University of Calgary, Canada)
Front. Aging Neurosci., 14 November 2016

The brain activity of humans with tinnitus of various etiologies is typically studied with electro- and magneto-encephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging-based imaging techniques. Consequently, they measure population responses and mostly from the neocortex. The latter also underlies changes in neural networks that may be attributed to tinnitus. However, factors not strictly related to tinnitus such as hearing loss and hyperacusis, as well as other co-occurring disorders play a prominent role in these changes. Different types of tinnitus can often not be resolved with these brain-imaging techniques. In animal models of putative behavioral signs of tinnitus, neural activity ranging from auditory nerve to auditory cortex, is studied largely by single unit recordings, augmented by local field potentials (LFPs), and the neural correlates of tinnitus are mainly based on spontaneous neural activity, such as spontaneous firing rates and pair-wise spontaneous spike-firing correlations. Neural correlates of hyperacusis rely on measurement of stimulus-evoked activity and are measured as increased driven firing rates and LFP amplitudes. Connectivity studies would rely on correlated neural activity between pairs of neurons or LFP amplitudes, but are only recently explored. In animal models of tinnitus, only two etiologies are extensively studied; tinnitus evoked by salicylate application and by noise exposure. It appears that they have quite different neural biomarkers. The unanswered question then is: does this different etiology also result in different tinnitus?

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