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Chronic sufferers of tinnitus, that buzz-killing condition which can arise from overexposure to loud, repetitive beats, will know that there is no straightforward cure for the ailment. To get started, patients put on a pair of headphones and listen to various tones that trigger the tinnitus before being played different frequencies close to the problematic one.
Because the implant is an invasive procedure, it may only be worthwhile for people whose quality of life is really suffering, but it would at least prove that the neurological mechanism that generates tinnitus can be reset.
The Texas scientists reasoned from earlier studies that they could affect the brain reorganization and perhaps undo it. The experiments themselves needed a clever design, because the researchers couldn’t ask the rats if they heard ringing in their ears.
Once this behavior was established, the researchers blasted the rats, under anesthesia, with a deafening tone. MicroTransponder has begun human trials of the therapy in Belgium, according to its CEO, Will Rosellini. MicroTransponder was initially formed to tackle the problem of chronic pain, a $2 billion market served by, among other treatments, implanted pacemaker-like stimulators. Engineer says that there is some similarity between the way tinnitus reorganizes the brain and the way certain types of chronic pain change neural circuits in the brain and spinal cord. Unlike the state-of-the-art hearing aids sometimes prescribed to tinnitus sufferers, which play specific tones designed to cancel out the ringing, the Serenity System doesn’t mask the noise, but instead retrains the brain to forget it. At the same time, the implant sends small pulses to the vagus nerve, which trigger the release of chemicals that increase the brain’s ability to reconfigure itself. Earlier work involved pairing audible tones with stimulation of structures deep in the brain.

In experiments with rats, they paired vagus-nerve stimulation with a 9-kilohertz tone hundreds of times per day for 20 days.
The scientists showed that they could repair the tinnitus damage by pairing vagus-nerve stimulation with tones that were outside the tinnitus frequency. So the scientists had to use other methods, such as assessing the rats’ behavior and probing their brains with arrays of microelectrodes. The scientists would periodically put a 50 millisecond gap in the noise [audio clip at right] immediately before a very loud white noise, which would startle the rats.
They could tell that it led to tinnitus because the rats stopped responding to the gap that precedes the startling sound. So the researchers hope to exploit some of their tinnitus findings in pain treatment as well.
Damage to the inner ear causes a portion of this map to take over other parts of the cortex, causing the ringing. But those structures aren’t easily accessed, so the researchers looked for another way in.
That had the effect of boosting the number of auditory cortex neurons that responded to the tone by 79 percent, a similar change to what you might expect from tinnitus.
This basically had the effect of squeezing the number of neurons that responded to the tinnitus frequency back down toward a normal number. After some training, the rats came to expect the loud sound after the deletion, so they weren’t quite as startled by it. Basically, the rats jumped higher when they heard the loud noise, because they could no longer tell when it was coming.

MicroTransponder calls its solution the SAINT (Subcutaneous Array of Implantable Neural Transponders) system, an implanted wireless electrode affixed to the nerve causing the pain.
They found it in the vagus nerve, a bundle of fibers that runs down the neck and innervates organs in the chest and abdomen. In 2010, MicroTransponder raised US $7 million from venture capital sources and $4.3 million from government sources.
Medical-device makers and researchers have used the vagus nerve as a port into the brain to lessen epilepsy and severe depression. After the vagus-nerve stimulation therapy, the researchers could tell the tinnitus was gone when the rats started responding to the warning cue again.
But the company’s real innovation, he says, is that it came up with an electrode design that stimulates nerves using a small percentage of the energy required by other designs. Conveniently, the vagus nerve also projects into brain structures that release neurochemicals in the auditory cortex. They also measured the corresponding reorganization and reversal in the rats’ auditory cortex using implanted microelectrodes. Besides chronic pain and tinnitus, MicroTransponder is exploring the wireless stimulator’s use in treating urinary incontinence and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Comments Tinnitus cure vagus nerve fainting

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