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Neuroimage Clin. 2020 Jan 11;25:102166. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102166. [Epub ahead of print]

A 7 Tesla fMRI investigation of human tinnitus percept in cortical and subcortical auditory areas.

Author information

1
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands; The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond St. N., London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada.
2
Cochlear Benelux NV, Mechelen Campus - Industrie Noord, Schaliënhoevedreef 20, Building I, Mechelen B-2800, Belgium.
3
Department of Ear Nose and Throat/Head and Neck Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Department of Ear Nose and Throat/Head and Neck Surgery, Zuyderland Medical Center, Sittard/Heerlen, the Netherlands.
4
Department of Ear Nose and Throat /Audiology, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (MHENS), Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
5
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
6
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
7
UMC Utrecht, department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery, UMC Utrecht Brain Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
8
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States. Electronic address: f.demartino@maastrichtuniversity.nl.

Abstract

Tinnitus is a clinical condition defined by hearing a sound in the absence of an objective source. Early experiments in animal models have suggested that tinnitus stems from an alteration of processing in the auditory system. However, translating these results to humans has proven challenging. One limiting factor has been the insufficient spatial resolution of non-invasive measurement techniques to investigate responses in subcortical auditory nuclei, like the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body (MGB). Here we employed ultra-high field functional magnetic resonance imaging (UHF-fMRI) at 7 Tesla to investigate the frequency-specific processing in sub-cortical and cortical regions in a cohort of six tinnitus patients and six hearing loss matched controls. We used task-based fMRI to perform tonotopic mapping and compared the magnitude and tuning of frequency-specific responses between the two groups. Additionally, we used resting-state fMRI to investigate the functional connectivity. Our results indicate frequency-unspecific reductions in the selectivity of frequency tuning that start at the level of the MGB and continue in the auditory cortex, as well as reduced thalamocortical and cortico-cortical connectivity with tinnitus. These findings suggest that tinnitus may be associated with reduced inhibition in the auditory pathway, potentially leading to increased neural noise and reduced functional connectivity. Moreover, these results indicate the relevance of high spatial resolution UHF-fMRI for the investigation of the role of sub-cortical auditory regions in tinnitus.

KEYWORDS:

Auditory pathway; Resting-state connectivity; Tinnitus; Tonotopic maps; Ultra-high field MRI

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