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Neural mechanisms underlying somatic tinnitus

Elsevier Science & Technology
DOI: 10.1016/s0079-6123(07)66010-5
  • Somatic Tinnitus
  • Somatosensory
  • Trigeminal
  • Nonauditory Pathways
  • Cochlear Nucleus
  • Biology


Abstract Somatic tinnitus is clinically observed modulation of the pitch and loudness of tinnitus by somatic stimulation. This phenomenon and the association of tinnitus with somatic neural disorders indicate that neural connections between the somatosensory and auditory systems may play a role in tinnitus. Anatomical and physiological evidence supports these observations. The trigeminal and dorsal root ganglia relay afferent somatosensory information from the periphery to secondary sensory neurons in the brainstem, specifically, the spinal trigeminal nucleus and dorsal column nuclei, respectively. Each of these structures has been shown to send excitatory projections to the cochlear nucleus. Mossy fibers from the spinal trigeminal and dorsal column nuclei terminate in the granule cell domain while en passant boutons from the ganglia terminate in the granule cell domain and core region of the cochlear nucleus. Sources of these somatosensory‚Äďauditory projections are associated with proprioceptive and cutaneous, but not nociceptive, sensation. Single unit and evoked potential recordings in the dorsal cochlear nucleus indicate that these pathways are physiologically active. Stimulation of the dorsal column and the cervical dorsal root ganglia elicits short- and long-latency inhibition separated by a transient excitatory peak in DCN single units. Similarly, activation of the trigeminal ganglion elicits excitation in some DCN units and inhibition in others. Bimodal integration in the DCN is demonstrated by comparing responses to somatosensory and auditory stimulation alone with responses to paired somatosensory and auditory stimulation. The modulation of firing rate and synchrony in DCN neurons by somatatosensory input is physiological correlate of somatic tinnitus.

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