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  • Author or Editor: Dirk De Ridder x
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Dirk De Ridder, Kathleen Joos and Sven Vanneste

Tinnitus can be distressful, and tinnitus distress has been linked to increased beta oscillatory activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). The amount of distress is linked to alpha activity in the medial temporal lobe (amygdala and parahippocampal area), as well as the subgenual (sg)ACC and insula, and the functional connectivity between the parahippocampal area and the sgACC at 10 and 11.5 Hz.

The authors describe 2 patients with very severely distressing intractable tinnitus who underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with a double-cone coil targeting the dACC and subsequent implantation of electrodes on the dACC. One of the patients responded to the implant and one did not, even though phenomenologically they both expressed the same tinnitus loudness and distress.

The responder has remained dramatically improved for more than 2 years with 6-Hz burst stimulation of the dACC. The 2 patients differed in functional connectivity between the area of the implant and a tinnitus network consisting of the parahippocampal area as well as the sgACC and insula; that is, the responder had increased functional connectivity between these areas, whereas the nonresponder had decreased functional connectivity between these areas. Only the patient with increased functional connectivity linked to the target area of repetitive TMS or implantation might transmit the stimulation current to the entire tinnitus network and thus clinically improve.

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Dirk De Ridder, Sven Vanneste, Elsa van der Loo, Mark Plazier, Tomas Menovsky and Paul van de Heyning

Object

Tinnitus is an auditory phantom percept related to tonic and burst hyperactivity of the auditory system. Two parallel pathways supply auditory information to the cerebral cortex: the tonotopically organized lemniscal system, and the nontonotopic extralemniscal system, which fire in tonic and burst mode, respectively. Electrical cortex stimulation is a method capable of modulating activity of the human cortex by delivering stimuli in a tonic or burst way. Burst firing is shown to be more powerful in activating the cerebral cortex than tonic firing, and bursts may activate neurons that are not activated by tonic firing.

Methods

Five patients with an implanted electrode on the auditory cortex were asked to rate their tinnitus distress and intensity on a visual analog scale before and after 40-Hz tonic and 40-Hz burst (5 pulses at 500 Hz) stimulation. All patients presented with both high-pitched pure tone and white noise components in their tinnitus.

Results

A significantly better suppression for narrowband noise tinnitus with burst stimulation in comparison with tonic stimulation (Z = −2.03, p = 0.04) was found. For pure tone tinnitus, no difference was found between tonic and burst stimulation (Z = −0.58, p = 0.56). No significant effect was obtained for stimulation amplitude (Z = −1.21, p = 0.23) and electrical charge per pulse (Z = −0.67, p = 0.50) between tonic and burst stimulation. The electrical current delivery per second was significantly different (Z = −2.02, p = 0.04).

Conclusions

Burst stimulation is a new form of neurostimulation that might be helpful in treating symptoms that are intractable to conventional tonic stimulation. Further exploration of this new stimulation design is warranted.

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Dirk De Ridder, Sven Vanneste, Silvia Kovacs, Stefan Sunaert, Tomas Menovsky, Paul van de Heyning and Aage Moller

Object

Tinnitus is a prevalent symptom, with clinical, pathophysiological, and treatment features analogous to pain. Noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and intracranial auditory cortex stimulation (ACS) via implanted electrodes into the primary or overlying the secondary auditory cortex have been developed to treat severe cases of intractable tinnitus.

Methods

A series of 43 patients who benefited transiently from 2 separate placebo-controlled TMS sessions underwent implantation of auditory cortex electrodes. Targeting was based on blood oxygen level–dependent activation evoked by tinnitus-matched sound, using functional MR imaging–guided neuronavigation.

Results

Thirty-seven percent of the patients responded to ACS with tonic stimulation. Of the 63% who were nonresponders, half benefited from burst stimulation. In total, 33% remained unaffected by the ACS. The average tinnitus reduction was 53% for the entire group. Burst stimulation was capable of suppressing tinnitus in more patients and was better than tonic stimulation, especially for noise-like tinnitus. For pure tone tinnitus, there were no differences between the 2 stimulation designs. The average pure tone tinnitus improvement was 71% versus 37% for noise-like tinnitus and 29% for a combination of both pure tone and noise-like tinnitus. Transcranial magnetic stimulation did not predict response to ACS, but in ACS responders, a correlation (r = 0.38) between the amount of TMS and ACS existed. A patient's sex, age, or tinnitus duration did not influence treatment outcome.

Conclusions

Intracranial ACS might become a valuable treatment option for severe intractable tinnitus. Better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of tinnitus, predictive functional imaging tests, new stimulation designs, and other stimulation targets are needed to improve ACS results.

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Dirk De Ridder, Elsa van der Loo, Sven Vanneste, Steffen Gais, Mark Plazier, Silvia Kovacs, Stefan Sunaert, Tomas Menovsky and Paul van de Heyning

Tinnitus is considered an auditory phantom percept analogous to phantom pain. Thalamocortical dysrhythmia has been proposed as a possible pathophysiological mechanism for both tinnitus and pain. Thalamocortical dysrhythmia refers to a persistent pathological resting state theta-gamma coupling that is spatially localized at an area where normally alpha oscillations predominate. Auditory cortex stimulation via implanted electrodes has been developed to treat tinnitus, targeting an area of activation on functional MR imaging elicited by tinnitus-matched sound presentation. The authors describe a case in which clinical improvement was correlated with changes in intracranial recordings. Maximal tinnitus suppression was obtained by current delivery exactly at the blood oxygen level–dependent activation hotspot, which colocalizes with increased gamma and theta activity, in contrast to the other electrode poles, which demonstrated a normal alpha peak. These spectral changes normalized when stimulation induced tinnitus suppression, both on electrode and source-localized electroencephalography recordings. These data suggest that thetagamma coupling as proposed by the thalamocortical dysrhythmia model might be causally related to a conscious auditory phantom percept.