Tinnitus: Ringing In The Ear Essay

1267 words - 5 pages

Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ear is a phantom auditory experience which can happen in the absence of an internal or external sound. It often accompanies hearing loss with severity ranging from mild to severe. Although, it can exist as a comparatively harmless condition it can be extremely debilitating and disruptive as it progresses. Tinnitus research has allured neuroscientists for decades due to the mystery related to it’s neural generators. In the recent years, tinnitus research has made some huge strides and has provided new insights to the neural mechanisms, and possible neural generators in the brain. The four major research areas in this field include identifying the brain substructure of tinnitus origin, the neural mechanism behind its origin, developing a general therapy, and customizing therapy for individual patients.
In the latter half of 1980s and early 1990s first animal models of acute tinnitus were introduced. Since that time, numerous physiological and behavioral animal models of tinnitus have been developed which provided major help in unraveling the enigma surrounding the tinnitus. Behavioral animal model provides insight to the psychophysical attributes of tinnitus; whereas physiological models improved the understanding of what happens at the neuronal level. Several agents have been used to induce tinnitus in animal models including salicylate, quinine or even intense sound. Most behavioral models relied on the conditioned response of animals such as bar presses, climbing behavior, licking behavior etc. The extensive time taken to train the animal to do that particular task was the inherent weakness of all behavioral procedures available up to that date. The animal model which relied on the startle response was a right step in the positive direction. This test is not susceptible to memory or any motivational states of the animal and circumvents the time required for training and test -retest. Startle reflex measures are more hard wired and rules out the motivational aspect form the animal unlike other behavioral conditioned tasks. This can improve correlation of the tinnitus related changes in the lower auditory system. Tinnitus research is now being conducted at multiple levels including auditory periphery, auditory CNS and even non auditory areas of brain. Both in-vivo and in-vitro animal models are now available in several species like rat, mice, cat, chinchilla etc which can help in better understanding of both acute and chronic forms of tinnitus. Animal brain imaging studies are increasingly useful in studying anatomical, biochemical, neuropharmacological and neurophysiological mechanisms which is hard to study in human subjects. Animal models are also useful for screening drugs that can eliminate tinnitus perceptions in animal before evaluating it’s usefulness in clinical trials.
Several theories related to tinnitus generation were proposed through out the last decades. Tinnitus as a result of...

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