Approaches to identify the perception of tinnitus in various animal models have been difficult to apply to mouse. As a result, mice have been underutilized to investigate the cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms underlying tinnitus. A recent study in Guinea pigs identified a novel spontaneous behavior (unconditioned response), changes in movement during silent gaps, that identified a subgroup of animals presumably with tinnitus. Guinea pigs identified with tinnitus failed to “freeze” in response to silent gaps in sound. In the hope of developing a rapid and reliable assay for mice, we used a similar approach. C57BL/6J mice underwent three trials in which spontaneous movement was video recorded in the presence of white noise interrupted with six silent gaps. Movement metrics included velocity and body movement. Before the third trial, mice underwent either sham or noise exposure to induce hearing loss and tinnitus. Auditory brainstem responses before and after noise trauma confirmed normal hearing in sham-treated animals and hearing loss in the noise-exposed cohort. No differences in the various movement metrics were detected during the silent gaps either before or after sham/noise exposure. Variability in spontaneous movement both before and after sham/noise exposure was substantially greater in mice compared to Guinea pigs. Thus, this assay is not sufficiently statistically powerful to identify changes in movement that might indicate tinnitus perception in mice. Previous observations also reported increased movement overall in Guinea pigs identified as suffering tinnitus. In contrast, mice showed no statistically significant differences in movement between the three trials. Despite our results, other unconditioned (as well as conditioned) behaviors should be examined in mice to test their utility to detect changes that indicate the perception of tinnitus. Such assays are essential to accelerate the use of mouse models in tinnitus research.
Reijntjes, D. O. J., Schubert, N. M. A., Pietrus-Rajman, A., Van Dijk, P., & Pyott, S. J. (2018). Changes in spontaneous movement in response to silent gaps are not robust enough to indicate the perception of tinnitus in mice. PLoS ONE, 13(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202882