BUFFALO, N.Y. -- For the more than 50 million Americans who experience the phantom sounds of tinnitus -- ringing in the ears that can range from annoying to debilitating -- certain well-trained rats may be their best hope for finding relief.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo have studied the condition for more than 10 years and have developed these animal models, which can tell the researchers if they are experiencing tinnitus.
These scientists now have received a $2.9 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the brain signals responsible for creating the phantom sounds, using the animal models, and to test potential therapies to quiet the noise.
The research will take place at the Center for Hearing and Deafness, part of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the universitys College of Arts and Sciences. Richard Salvi, Ph.D., director of the center, is principal investigator. Scientists from UBs Department of Nuclear Medicine and from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo are major collaborators on portions of the project.
Tinnitus is caused by continued exposure to loud noise, by normal aging and, to a much lesser extent, as a side effect of taking certain anti-cancer drugs. It is a major concern in the military: 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffer from the condition.
For many years it was thought that the buzzing or ringing sounds heard by people with tinnitus originated in the ear, Salvi said. But by using positron emission tomography [known as PET scanning] to view the brain activity of people with tinnitus at UB, weve been able to show that these phantom auditory sensations originated somewhere in brain, not in the ear. That changed the whole research approach.
Salvi and colleagues discovered that when the brains auditory cortex begins receiving diminished neural signals from the cochlea, the hearing organ, due to injury or age, the audito
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University at Buffalo