Structural brain changes in tinnitus

M. Mühlau, J. P. Rauschecker, E. Oestreicher, C. Gaser, M. Röttinger, A. M. Wohlschläger, F. Simon, T. Etgen, B. Conrad, D. Sander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


Tinnitus is a common but poorly understood disorder characterized by ringing or buzzing in the ear. Central mechanisms must play a crucial role in generating this auditory phantom sensation as it persists in most cases after severing the auditory nerve. One hypothesis states that tinnitus is caused by a reorganization of tonotopic maps in the auditory cortex, which leads to an overrepresentation of tinnitus frequencies. Moreover, the participation of the limbic system in generating tinnitus has been postulated. Here we aimed at identifying brain areas that display structural change in tinnitus. We compared tinnitus sufferers with healthy controls by using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and voxel-based morphometry. Within the auditory pathways, we found gray-matter increases only at the thalamic level. Outside the auditory system, gray-matter decrease was found in the subcallosal region including the nucleus accumbens. Our results suggest that reciprocal involvement of both sensory and emotional areas are essential in the generation of tinnitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1288
Number of pages6
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Medial geniculate nucleus
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Subcallosal area
  • Tinnitus
  • Voxel-based morphometry


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