A Global Brain Model of Tinnitus

  • Winfried SchleeEmail author
  • Isabel Lorenz
  • Thomas Hartmann
  • Nadia Müller
  • Hannah Schulz
  • Nathan Weisz


  1. 1.

    Subjective tinnitus is characterized by the perception of a phantom sound in the absence of any physical source.

  2. 2.

    While transient tinnitus usually lasts only a couple of seconds to a few hours, chronic tinnitus is an ongoing conscious perception of sound for more than 6 months with low incidence of spontaneous remissions.

  3. 3.

    Empirical studies in animals and humans often show enhancement of cortical excitability in the auditory areas associated with the tinnitus.

  4. 4.

    Theoretical and experimental studies suggest an additional involvement of extra-auditory cortical regions, especially the frontal cortex, the parietal cortex, and the cingulum.

  5. 5.

    Using magnetoencephalograpic recordings, we found that these areas are functionally connected with each other and form a global fronto–parietal–cingulate network.

  6. 6.

    The top–down influence of this global network on auditory areas is associated with the distress that is perceived by many individuals with tinnitus.

  7. 7.

    We suggest that both entities – the enhanced excitability of the central auditory system and the integration with a global cortical network – are important to generate and maintain a conscious percept of tinnitus.

  8. 8.

    This chapter will concentrate on how a conscious perception of tinnitus is formed and maintained throughout a lifetime.



Chronic tinnitus Conscious perception Global network Cortical connectivity Top–down Long-range connectivity 



Anterior cingulate cortex


Amplitude modulation




Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex




Event-related synchronization






Orbitofrontal cortex


Posterior cingulate cortex


Partial directed coherence


Positron emission tomography


Regional cerebral blood flow


Synchronization by loss of inhibition model


Sound pressure level


Steady state response



This work was supported be the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the Tinnitus Research Initiative (TRI), and the Zukunftskolleg of the University of Konstanz.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Winfried Schlee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabel Lorenz
  • Thomas Hartmann
  • Nadia Müller
  • Hannah Schulz
  • Nathan Weisz
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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