AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018


Neuroscientists Uncover Brain Abnormalities Responsible for Tinnitus and Chronic Pain

Research published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences has helped uncover the brain malady responsible for tinnitus and chronic pain. The scientists describe how the neural mechanisms that normally “gate” or control noise and pain signals can become dysfunctional, leading to a chronic perception of these sensations. They traced the flow of these signals through the brain and showed where “circuit breakers” should be working — but aren’t. In both disorders, the brain has been reorganized in response to an injury in its sensory apparatus, explained the study’s lead researcher. Areas of the brain responsible for these errant sensations are the nucleus accumbens, the reward and learning center, and several areas that serve “executive” or administrative roles — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VNPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex. All of these areas are also important for evaluating and modulating emotional experiences, noted researchers. “These areas act as a central gatekeeping system for perceptual sensations, which evaluate the affective meaning of sensory stimuli — whether produced externally or internally — and modulates information flow in the brain. Tinnitus and chronic pain occur when this system is compromised.” To read more about this research, click here.

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