UT-Dallas Researchers' Potential Tinnitus Cure Rings Loudly in Scientific Community's Ears
The docs' research, funded with a $1.7-million grant from the National Institutes of Health and published this week in Nature and quickly making the rounds both here and abroad, suggests that tinnitus is reversible after all -- that the perpetual ringing in the ears can be turned down, if not switched off altogether. Long story short: The docs found that if they exposed rats to sound while at the same time electrically stimulating the vagus nerve (which is apparently also called the "cranial nerve X," which just triggered the rare Band Name and Album Title Alert), they could eliminate the ringing in the ears. (Though how one finds a rat with tinnitus ...)
Says Engineer in the UTD release, "This minimally invasive method of generating neural plasticity allows us to precisely manipulate brain circuits, which cannot be achieved with drugs. Pairing sounds with VNS provides that precision by rewiring damaged circuits and reversing the abnormal activity that generates the phantom sound." Clinical trials are scheduled to begin on humans in the next few months. Which reminds me: Kids, turn down the iPod. And get yourself a case of earplugs.