Lateralization effects on functional connectivity of the auditory network in patients with unilateral pulsatile tinnitus as detected by functional MRI

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Unilateral pulsatile tinnitus (PT) was proved to be a kind of disease with brain functional abnormalities within and beyond the auditory network (AN). However, changes in patterns of the lateralization effects of PT are yet to be established. Relationship between the AN and other brain networks in PT patients is also a scientific question need to be answered. In this study, we recruited 23 left-sided, 23 right-sided PT (LSPT, RSPT) patients and 23 normal controls (NC). We combined applied independent component analysis and seed-based functional connectivity (FC) analysis to investigate alteration feature of the FC of the AN by using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI). Compared with NC, LSPT patients demonstrated disconnected FC within the AN on both sides. Disrupted network integrity between AN and several brain functional networks, including executive control network, self-perceptual network and the limbic network, was also demonstrated in LSPT patient group bilaterally. In contrast, compared with NC, RSPT demonstrated decreased FC within the AN on the left side, but significant increased FC within the AN on the right side (symptomatic side). Enhanced FC between AN and executive control network, self-perceptual network and limbic network was also found mainly on the right side in patients with RSPT. Positive FC between the auditory network and the limbic network may be a reason to explain why RSPT patients are willing to be in the clinic. Briefly, LSPT exhibit disrupted network integrity in brain functional networks. But RSPT is featured by enhanced FC within AN and between networks, especially on the right (symptomatic) side. Corroboration of featured FC helps to reveal the pathophysiological changing process of the brain in patients with PT, providing imaging-based biomarker to distinguish PT from other kind of tinnitus.

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