Scientists reboot brain to cure ringing in earsJanuary 13th, 2011 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS
London, Jan 13 (IANS) Scientists may have come up with a cure for tinnitus - persistent ringing in the ears.The technique, which ‘reboots’ the brain, has been successfully tested on rats. Clinical trials on humans are due to start in the next few months.
Tinnitus can affect one or both ears and can also sound like whines, rattling, low beeps or a rushing sound, the journal Nature reports.
Loud noise often triggers tinnitus, which destroys cells in the inner ear that transmit sound signals to the brain, according to the Daily Mail.
Scientists believe the brain tries to compensate for the missing signals, leading to phantom sounds.
Other causes of tinnitus include injury and normal ageing.
The US researchers carried out experiments on tinnitus-affected rats designed to trigger changes in the ‘auditory cortex’ - the part of the brain that responds to sound.
Study leader Michael Kilgard from the University of Texas said: “We are retuning the brain from a state where it generates tinnitus to a state that does not generate tinnitus. We are eliminating the source of the tinnitus.”
By stimulating the vagus nerve, a large nerve running from the head and neck to the abdomen, with a small electrode at the same time as playing a high-pitched sound, they banished tinnitus from the rats.
Treated rats showed responses that indicated the ringing in their ears had stopped. Animals that did not receive the therapy continued to display signs of tinnitus.
When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it releases chemicals that can alter brain circuitry.
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