Neural correlates of human somatosensory integration in tinnitus

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Possible neural correlates of somatosensory modulation of tinnitus were assessed. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate differences in neural activity between subjects that can modulate their tinnitus by jaw protrusion and normal hearing controls. We measured responses to bilateral sound and responses to jaw protrusion. Additionally we studied multimodal integration of somatosensory jaw protrusion and sound. The auditory system responded to both sound and jaw protrusion. Jaw responses were enhanced in the cochlear nucleus (CN) and the inferior colliculus (IC) in tinnitus patients. The responses of the auditory brain areas to jaw protrusion presumable account for the modulation of tinnitus as described by the patients. The somatosensory system responded to jaw protrusion and not to sound. These responses occurred both in subjects with tinnitus and controls. Unexpectedly, the cerebellum responded to sound in normal hearing subjects, but not in tinnitus patients. Together, these results provide a neurophysiological basis for the effect of jaw protrusion on tinnitus.

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