Recent research suggests tinnitus is a phantom phenomenon based on hyperactivity of the auditory system, which can be visualized by functional neuroimaging, and transiently modulated by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We present the results of the first implanted electrodes on the primary and secondary auditory cortex after a successful TMS suppression.
Twelve patients underwent an auditory cortex implantation, 10 for unilateral and 2 for bilateral tinnitus, based on >50% suppression applying TMS. Results were analyzed for pure tone tinnitus and white noise tinnitus.
TMS results in 77% pure tone tinnitus and 67% white noise reduction. Electrical stimulation via an implanted electrode results in a mean of 97% pure tone tinnitus and 24% white noise suppression. Mean Visual Analogue Scale score decreases from 9.5 to 1.5 for pure tone and from 8.8 to 6.8 for white noise postoperatively.
Pure tone tinnitus might be the conscious percept of focal neuronal hyperactivity of the auditory cortex. Once visualized, this hyperactivity can be modulated by neurostimulation.
The preliminary results of the first implantations suggest that patients with unilateral pure tone tinnitus are good surgical candidates for electrode implantation and permanent electrical stimulation of the auditory cortex, provided that the tinnitus is of recent origin and can be suppressed by TMS.