Subjective tinnitus, or “ringing in the ears,” is perceived by 10 to 15 percent of the adult population and causes significant suffering in a subset of patients. While it was originally thought of as a purely auditory phenomenon, there is increasing evidence that the limbic system influences whether and how tinnitus is perceived, far beyond merely determining the patient’s emotional reaction to the phantom sound. Based on functional imaging and electrophysiological data, recent articles frame tinnitus as a “network problem” arising from abnormalities in auditory-limbic interactions. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging is a noninvasive method for investigating anatomical connections in vivo. It thus has the potential to provide anatomical evidence for the proposed changes in auditory-limbic connectivity. However, the few diffusion imaging studies of tinnitus performed to date have inconsistent results. In the present paper, we briefly summarize the results of previous studies, aiming to reconcile their results. After detailing analysis methods, we then report findings from a new dataset. We conclude that while there is some evidence for tinnitus-related increases in auditory and auditory-limbic connectivity that counteract hearing-loss related decreases in auditory connectivity, these results should be considered preliminary until several technical challenges have been overcome.
Seydell-Greenwald, A., Raven, E. P., Leaver, A. M., Turesky, T. K., & Rauschecker, J. P. (2014). Diffusion imaging of auditory and auditory-limbic connectivity in tinnitus: Preliminary evidence and methodological challenges. Neural Plasticity, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/145943