Paraflocculus plays a role in salicylate-induced tinnitus

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Tinnitus impairs quality of life of about 1–2% of the whole population. In most severe situation, tinnitus may cause social isolation, depression and suicide. Drug treatments for tinnitus are generally ineffective, and the mechanisms of tinnitus are still undetermined. Accumulating evidence suggests that tinnitus is related to changes of widespread brain networks. Recent studies propose that paraflocculus (PFL), which is indirectly connected to various cortical regions, may be a gating zone of tinnitus. So we examined the electrophysiological changes and neurotransmitter alterations of the PFL in a rat model of sodium salicylate (SS)-induced tinnitus. We found that spontaneous firing rate (SFR) of the putative excitatory interneurons of the PFL was significantly increased. The level of glutamic acid, which is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system, was also dramatically increased in the PFL after SS treatment. These results confirmed the hyperactivity of PFL in the rats with SS-treatment, which might be due to the increased glutamic acid. Then we examined the SFR of the auditory cortex (AC), the center for auditory perception, before and after electrical stimulation of the PFL. 71.4% (105/147) of the recorded neurons showed a response to the stimulation of the PFL. The result demonstrated that stimulation of the PFL could modulate the activity of the AC. Our study suggests a role of PFL in SS-induced tinnitus and AC as a potential target of PFL in the process of tinnitus.

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