Chronification of tinnitus: Which neurophysiological processes make tinnitus persistent?

As human tinnitus research typically focuses on the investigation of neuronal activity in patients suffering from chronic tinnitus for many years it is still unknown why acute tinnitus becomes chronic in some patients, while, in others, it disappears without specific intervention. To date, we can only speculate that most likely cognitive or emotional processes are responsible for sustaining tinnitus over time as it has been shown in chronification of pain (Denk et al. 2014, Rauschecker et al. 2015). Is chronification of tinnitus thus associated with a representation shift from auditory to tinnitus– associated non–auditory networks as shown in pain research? Or is it the modulation of auditory cortical activity by non–auditory networks that make tinnitus persistent?

We record tinnitus-related brain activity quickly after tinnitus development and half a year later, when tinnitus became chronic in a part of the participants and disappeared in others. By comparing relevant brain activity between and within groups we hope to identify neuronal markers defining chronification versus spontaneous remission of tinnitus.

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