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Tinnitus study looks for cure to 'ringing in the ears'
Date:8/11/2010

The NIH has granted a University of Texas at Dallas researcher and a university-affiliated biomedical firm $1.7 million to investigate whether nerve stimulation offers a long-term cure for tinnitus.

Described as a ringing in the ears, tinnitus affects 20 percent to 40 percent of recently returned military veterans and about 10 percent of all people over 65 years old. The U.S. Veterans Administration spends about $1 billion a year in disability payments related to tinnitus, said Dr. Michael Kilgard, associate professor in UT Dallas' School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. The disorder causes mild irritation for some people but is disabling and painful for many others.

Kilgard will use his portion of the grant, $448,000 over two years, to continue testing whether vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can retrain the brain to ignore the nerve signals that simulate ringing. The researchers in earlier tests found that VNS stimulation, when paired with the presentation of alternative tones, appeared to reverse the effects of tinnitus.

"We're glad to get an opportunity to further our research on tinnitus," Kilgard said. "This grant will support advances in our understanding of VNS treatment, and it will move the technological development forward so we can better deliver that therapy to patients."

The researchers plan to change the pattern for stimulation, increasing the frequency to see if more intensive therapy might reverse the effects of tinnitus faster. The primary aim of the new research is to accumulate enough data to design clinical trials using VNS to treat tinnitus in human subjects in the United States.

VNS previously translated successfully to humans for the treatment of epilepsy, depression and other neurological disorders.

The new grant resulted from the NIH's partnership with the federal government's Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR). Part of the grant will go to Kilgard and his work in the l
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Contact: Emily Martinez
emily.martinez@utdallas.edu
University of Texas at Dallas
Source:Eurekalert

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