Tinnitus Distress: A Paradoxical Attention to the Sound?



Tinnitus, the perception of sound in the absence of external stimuli, is often a disturbing symptom for which the underlying functional neuroanatomy still remains poorly understood. Most studies have focused solely on functional connectivity changes in the auditory cortex of tinnitus patients. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a correlation exists between tinnitus behavioural scores and functional brain connectivity of five resting-state networks comprising the auditory, the default mode, the external control left and right, and the salience network. For this purpose, a large sample of one hundred and thirty-five subjects underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and their behavioural scores were obtained using clinical evaluations. Networks were extracted using independent component analysis, and functional connectivity patterns in the extracted networks were evaluated by a graph theoretical approach. The effects of tinnitus for each network were investigated by correlating the graph strength of all the regions with the tinnitus behavioural scores using stepwise fit regression analysis. Results indicated that alterations of functional interactions between key neural circuits of the brain are not limited to one single network. In particular, tinnitus distress showed a strong correlation with the connectivity pattern within and between the right executive control network and the other four resting-state networks, indicating that tinnitus distress is probably the consequence of a hyperactive attention condition. Among the behavioural scores, the strongest correlation was observed between age and hearing loss, while the tinnitus objective loudness was not correlated with any behavioural scores. © 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


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Distress (Psychology), Executive functions (Neuropsychology), Graph theory, Rest, Tinnitus, Auditory cortex, Magnetic resonance imaging


Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research—FNRS (F 5/4/150/5—MCF/SD—9853), the Tinnitus Prize 2011 (FNRS 9.4501.12); NSERC Discovery grant (05578-2014RGPIN)


©2019 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany