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Neuroimage. 2010 Aug 15;52(2):470-80. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.04.029. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

The neural correlates of tinnitus-related distress.

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Brai(2)n, TRI & Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium.


Tinnitus is an auditory phantom percept with a tone, hissing, or buzzing sound in the absence of any objective physical sound source. About 6% to 25% of the affected people report interference with their lives as tinnitus causes a considerable amount of distress. However, the underlying neurophysiological mechanism for the development of tinnitus-related distress remains not well understood. Hence we focus on the cortical and subcortical source differences in resting-state EEG between tinnitus patients with different grades of distress using continuous scalp EEG recordings and Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (LORETA). Results show more synchronized alpha activity in the tinnitus patients with a serious amount of distress with peaks localized to various emotion-related areas. These areas include subcallosal anterior cingulate cortex, the insula, parahippocampal area and amygdala. In addition, less alpha synchronized activity was found in the posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus and DLPFC. A comparison between the tinnitus group with distress and the Nova Tech EEG (NTE) normative database demonstrated increased synchronized alpha and beta activity and less synchronized delta and theta activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in tinnitus patients with distress. It is interesting that the areas found show some overlap with the emotional component of the pain matrix and the distress related areas in asthmatic dyspnea. Unpleasantness of pain activates the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices, amygdala, and insula. As such, it might be that distress is related to alpha and beta activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the amount of distress perceived to an alpha network consisting of the amygdala-anterior cingulate cortex-insula-parahippocampal area.

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