Suppression of putative tinnitus-related activity by extra-cochlear electrical stimulation

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    © 2015 the American Physiological Society. Studies on animals have shown that noise-induced hearing loss is followed by an increase of spontaneous firing at several stages of the central auditory system. This central hyperactivity has been suggested to underpin the perception of tinnitus. It was shown that decreasing cochlear activity can abolish the noise-induced central hyperactivity. This latter result further suggests that an approach consisting of reducing cochlear activity may provide a therapeutic avenue for tinnitus. In this context, extra-cochlear electric stimulation (ECES) may be a good candidate to modulate cochlear activity and suppress tinnitus. Indeed, it has been shown that a positive current applied at the round window reduces cochlear nerve activity and can suppress tinnitus reliably in tinnitus subjects. The present study investigates whether ECES with a positive current can abolish the noise-induced central hyperactivity, i.e., the putative tinnitus-related activity. Spontaneous and stimulus-evoked neural activity before, during and after ECES was assessed from single-unit recordings in the inferior colliculus of anesthetized guinea pigs. We found that ECES with positive current significantly decreases the spontaneous firing rate of neurons with high characteristic frequencies, whereas negative current produces the opposite effect. The effects of the ECES are absent or even reversed for neurons with low characteristic frequencies. Importantly, ECES with positive current had only a marginal effect on thresholds and tone-induced activity of collicular neurons, suggesting that the main action of positive current is to modulate the spontaneous firing. Overall, cochlear electrical stimulation may be a viable approach for suppressing some forms of (peripheral-dependent) tinnitus.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-143
    JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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