|Teufelskreise beim Tinnitus-Syndrom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"There is no cure for it, and current therapies such as hearing aids don't provide relief for many patients," he said. "We hope that by identifying the underlying cause, we can develop effective interventions."
The team focused on an area of the brain that is home to an important auditory center called the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). From previous research in a mouse model, they knew that tinnitus is associated with hyperactivity of DCN cells -- they fire impulses even when there is no actual sound to perceive. For the new experiments, they took a close look at the biophysical properties of tiny channels, called KCNQ channels, through which potassium ions travel in and out of the cell.
"We found that mice with tinnitus have hyperactive DCN cells because of a reduction in KCNQ potassium channel activity," Dr. Tzounopoulos said. "These KCNQ channels act as effective "brakes" that reduce excitability or activity of neuronal cells."