07 July 2011

Rebooting the brain may stop tinnitus

Rats who received nerve stimulation in the presence of music had their tinnitus eliminated.

Researchers have been able to eliminate tinnitus in a group of rats by stimulating a nerve in the neck and playing a variety of sound tones over a period of time.

The therapy, which is similar to pressing a reset button in the brain, was found to help retrain the part of the brain that interprets sound so that errant neurons reverted back to their original state and the ringing disappeared.

Nerve stimulation and sounds
In the study, the researchers laid emphasis on the stimulation of the vagus nerve, which is large in size and runs from the head and neck to the abdomen. On stimulation, the nerve secretes certain chemicals that cause modifications in the brain.

Some of the rats underwent vagus nerve stimulation in the presence of a variety of sound tones, while the rats in the control group received vagus nerve stimulation and no tones were played. The researchers examined rats in both the groups on the basis of their neuron activity. It was found that rats that received nerve stimulation in the presence of music had their tinnitus reduced in comparison to the control group's rats.

May improve quality of life
"Current treatments for tinnitus generally involve masking the sound or learning to ignore it," said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), which funded part of the research. "If we can find a way to turn off the noise, we'll be able to improve life substantially for people who suffer from this disorder."

The research was conducted, among others, by scientists from the University of Texas in Dallas. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Tinnitus is an ear disorder in the brain. Tinnitus varies considerably in intensity and type. Some people describe tinnitus as high-frequency whistling sounds while others perceive tinnitus as a buzzing noise or a sound similar to butter sizzling in a frying pan. Tinnitus affects millions of people around the world.

Sources: www.topnews.us and www.mdnews.com

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