Int Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2015; 19(03): 259-265
DOI: 10.1055/s-0035-1548671
Systematic Review
Thieme Publicações Ltda Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tinnitus Neural Mechanisms and Structural Changes in the Brain: The Contribution of Neuroimaging Research

Patricia Simonetti
1  Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Jeanne Oiticica
1  Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, University of São Paulo, Brazil
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

18 November 2014

09 February 2015

Publication Date:
30 March 2015 (online)


Introduction Tinnitus is an abnormal perception of sound in the absence of an external stimulus. Chronic tinnitus usually has a high impact in many aspects of patients' lives, such as emotional stress, sleep disturbance, concentration difficulties, and so on. These strong reactions are usually attributed to central nervous system involvement. Neuroimaging has revealed the implication of brain structures in the auditory system.

Objective This systematic review points out neuroimaging studies that contribute to identifying the structures involved in the pathophysiological mechanism of generation and persistence of various forms of tinnitus.

Data Synthesis Functional imaging research reveals that tinnitus perception is associated with the involvement of the nonauditory brain areas, including the front parietal area; the limbic system, which consists of the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and amygdala; and the hippocampal and parahippocampal area.

Conclusion The neuroimaging research confirms the involvement of the mechanisms of memory and cognition in the persistence of perception, anxiety, distress, and suffering associated with tinnitus.