Tinnitus and neuropathic pain share a common neural substrate in the form of specific brain connectivity and microstate profiles

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Abstract

Tinnitus and neuropathic pain share similar pathophysiological, clinical, and treatment characteristics. In this EEG study, a group of tinnitus (n = 100) and neuropathic pain (n = 100) patients are compared to each other and to a healthy control group (n = 100). Spectral analysis demonstrates gamma band activity within the primary auditory and somatosensory cortices in patients with tinnitus and neuropathic pain, respectively. A conjunction analysis further demonstrates an overlap of tinnitus and pain related activity in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortex as well as in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in comparison to healthy controls. Further analysis reveals that similar states characterize tinnitus and neuropathic pain patients, two of which differ from the healthy group and two of which are shared. Both pain and tinnitus patients spend half of the time in one specific microstate. Seed-based functional connectivity with the source within the predominant microstate shows delta, alpha1, and gamma lagged phase synchronization overlap with multiple brain areas between pain and tinnitus. These data suggest that auditory and somatosensory phantom perceptions share an overlapping brain network with common activation and connectivity patterns and are differentiated by specific sensory cortex gamma activation.

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