Spontaneous firing patterns in the medial geniculate nucleus in a guinea pig model of tinnitus

J. A. Cook, K. M. Barry, J. W. Zimdahl, K. Leggett, W. H.A.M. Mulders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The mechanism of tinnitus, the perception of sound in the absence of acoustic stimulation, remains as yet unknown. It has been proposed that tinnitus is caused by altered spontaneous activity in the auditory pathway following cochlear damage in combination with inadequate gating at the level of the auditory thalamus, the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN). To investigate this further we made electrophysiological recordings in MGN of guinea pigs (n = 9) with and without tinnitus after acoustic trauma (continuous loud tone at 10 kHz, 124 dB SPL for 2 h). Parameters of interest were spontaneous tonic and burst firing. After acoustic trauma, 5 out of 9 guinea pigs developed signs of tinnitus as determined by the gap prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle. Spontaneous firing rates were significantly increased in the tinnitus animals as compared to the non-tinnitus animals and this change was specific to pure-tone responsive MGN neurons. However, burst firing parameters, including number of bursts per minute, burst duration, number of spikes in each burst, and percentage of spikes occurring in a burst, were not different between tinnitus and non-tinnitus animals. In addition, our data showed a strong dependence of spontaneous firing rates with heart rate, which implies that monitoring physiological status in animals is pertinent to obtaining reliable data when recording at higher levels of the auditory pathway. Our results suggest that increases in the tonic spontaneous fining rate of pure-tone responsive MGN neurons but not changes in burst firing parameters, are a robust neural signature of tinnitus in anaesthetised animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108190
JournalHearing Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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