Pitt Medcast 1

Summer 2013

As recently as 20 years ago, tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other noise that afflicts people who’ve been exposed to loud sounds—was thought to be an affliction of the ear, but imaging studies eventually proved its source is in the brain. Recently, Pitt investigator Thanos Tzounopoulos, an expert in brain plasticity, uncovered the molecular mechanisms of this long-misunderstood condition, now the most common service-associated disability for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: When hearing is lost, the central nervous system tries to adapt and maintain a certain level of activity, filling the void with these phantom sounds.

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by “Static,” a feature story from the Winter 2011 issue of Pitt Med magazine. Special thanks to the Pittsburgh-based band Onodrim for the music.


Video: The Brain's Reaction to Sound

Using an imaging technique called flavoprotein autofluorescence, Pitt’s Thanos Tzounopoulos showed that the dorsal cochlear nucleus—the first nucleus that ushers sound signals into the brain—is more active in mice with tinnitus (video top) than in healthy mice (bottom.


For more information on the emerging neuroscience of tinnitus, see our Winter 2011/12 feature story, "Static."