The involvement of the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in tinnitus: a TMS study.
ABSTRACT Tinnitus is an auditory phantom percept with a tone, hissing or buzzing sound in the absence of any objective physical sound source. Tinnitus is considered to be an auditory phantom phenomenon analogous to somatosensory phantom pain. Controllable versus uncontrollable pain is characterized by an increased activity in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), and activation in the VLPFC correlating with perceived control over pain results in a decrease in subjective pain intensity. Depressed individuals show less activation than healthy controls in the left VLPFC in response to sad autobiographical scripts, and greater relative left prefrontal activation is related to a greater disposition to approach-related, positive affect with a greater ability to regulate negative affect. Based on the theory that non-pulsatile tinnitus can be considered the auditory analogue for deafferentation pain, we hypothesize that the left VLPFC might also be involved in control of tinnitus. We conducted a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study verifying whether modulating the left VLPFC by TMS can modulate the loudness of tinnitus. We studied 60 patients with chronic tinnitus of which 21 patients received in random order sham and 1-Hz stimulation, while 39 patients received in random order sham and 10-Hz stimulation. Our results show that 10-Hz stimulation can modulate tinnitus loudness, while 1-Hz stimulation does not seem to exert the same effect. Our findings give further support to the fact that non-auditory areas are involved in tinnitus.