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  • Author or Editor: Dirk De Ridder x
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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, 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.