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Tinnitus: Ringing in the Ear

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Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ear is a phantom auditory experience which can happen in the absence of an internal or external sound. It often accompanies hearing loss with severity ranging from mild to severe. Although, it can exist as a comparatively harmless condition it can be extremely debilitating and disruptive as it progresses. Tinnitus research has allured neuroscientists for decades due to the mystery related to it’s neural generators. In the recent years, tinnitus research has made some huge strides and has provided new insights to the neural mechanisms, and possible neural generators in the brain. The four major research areas in this field include identifying the brain substructure of tinnitus origin, the neural mechanism behind its origin, developing a general therapy, and customizing therapy for individual patients.

In the latter half of 1980s and early 1990s first animal models of acute tinnitus were introduced. Since that time, numerous physiological and behavioral animal models of tinnitus have been developed which provided major help in unraveling the enigma surrounding the tinnitus. Behavioral animal model provides insight to the psychophysical attributes of tinnitus; whereas physiological models improved the understanding of what happens at the neuronal level. Several agents have been used to induce tinnitus in animal models including salicylate, quinine or even intense sound. Most behavioral models relied on the conditioned response of animals such as bar presses, climbing behavior, licking behavior etc. The extensive time taken to train the animal to do that particular task was the inherent weakness of all behavioral procedures available up to that date. The animal model which relied on the sta...

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... possible mechanisms in each of these levels, how they influence each other and contribute to the different arenas tinnitus related defect need to be addressed. All these information can be translated to make use of the plasticity phenomenon to restore the normal balance in the inhibitory – excitatory pathways.

Thus Tinnitus is an ever challenging and intriguing research area with burgeoning interest set for even more dramatic advances in the near future. I am especially interested in the neuroplasticity changes accompanying tinnitus in relation to the excitatory amino acid GABA. Startle reflex would be especially useful in achieving these goals. I would like to make use of this extremely useful animal model to have a better understanding of the acoustic correlates of tinnitus in mouse animal model and can use that as screening tool for possible tinnitus drug.
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