Pairing Sound with Vagus Nerve Stimulation Modulates Cortical Synchrony and Phase Coherence in Tinnitus: An Exploratory Retrospective Study


Recent research has shown that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with tones or with rehabilitative training can help patients to achieve reductions in tinnitus perception or to expedite motor rehabilitation after suffering an ischemic stroke. The rationale behind this treatment is that VNS paired with experience can drive neural plasticity in a controlled and therapeutic direction. Since previous studies observed that gamma activity in the auditory cortex is correlated with tinnitus loudness, we assessed resting-state source-localized EEG before and after one to three months of VNS-tone pairing in chronic tinnitus patients. VNS-tone pairing reduced gamma band activity in left auditory cortex. VNStone pairing also reduced the phase coherence between the auditory cortex and areas associated with tinnitus distress, including the cingulate cortex. These results support the hypothesis that VNS-tone pairing can direct therapeutic neural plasticity. Targeted plasticity therapy might also be adapted to treat other conditions characterized by hypersynchronous neural activity.


Includes supplementary material


Tinnitus, Auditory cortex, Plasticity, Oscillations, Outcomes research (Medical care), Vagus nerve, Ischemia


CC BY 4.0 (Attribution), ©2017 The Authors