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Novel Theory for Tinnitus Results from ARRA Funding
Why some people with hearing loss develop tinnitus—a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears—and others don’t has puzzled scientists for years. Researchers funded by an NIDCD challenge grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are suggesting that vulnerability to tinnitus resides in the limbic system—a linked network of brain structures involved in emotion, behavior, and long-term memory. Josef Rauschecker, Ph.D., D.Sc., and his team of researchers at Georgetown University propose that these limbic structures act as a gatekeeper to keep the tinnitus signal from reaching the part of the brain that mediates our conscious perception of sound. People whose limbic systems are less successful at suppressing the signal develop tinnitus. Rauschecker and his team base their theory upon imaging studies that show brain volume loss in limbic areas that interact with the auditory system and hyperactivity in other areas that appears to be trying to make up for the loss. Their findings give other researchers a new set of places to explore where tinnitus could potentially be stopped.
Read more on the NIDCD website.
Earlier findings, which the ARRA-funded study built upon, have been published in the January 13, 2011, issue of Neuron.