Drug Treatment Programs in San Francisco: UC Berkley Scientists Undertake Some Research Into Tinnitus Treatment Programs

On the 17th of September it was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle that scientists from UC Berkeley are developing a new avenue for treating this condition. To this end they have identified a phantom limb syndrome which is often experienced by amputees.

The UC Berkeley tinnitus treatment program is different in as much as it refers to an alternative phenomenon that is experienced by people who have undergone amputation. In this model the neurons would continue to fire in the brain even where there are no stimuli. That means that the noise is not real but imagined. Is it possible to train the patient to “hear” the reality of their environment?

The drug option: In case the scientists are unable to find physical means of hiding the phantom noise, a drug therapy option might be explored. This should ideally regulate the neurons so that they do not create responses when not required to do so. Shaowen Bao is an adjunct assistant professor with the UC Berkeley Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and has claimed that the theory has now been established. The problem for the scientists is to find a way of delivering all the ambitious outcomes which have been suggested.
Long term consequences that must be avoided: If you effective treatment program is identified then up to 50 million Americans could be in danger of going deaf. The frequencies at which the sounds are heard will be important in determining the level of response and its efficacy. According to the research the brain is able to remap itself after hearing loss so that the frequencies are changed. The transition would then create these gaps where sounds could be picked up.
The limitations of the research: At the moment the results are restricted to rats and that may not necessarily transfer to human beings. Someone with normal hearing can still experience these discrepancies in the way that the neurons respond. A part of the brain is disengaged and will have to be reactivated according to Dr. Michael Merzenich who was involved in the project.

The remapping process would require significant training for the brain. At the moment the learning techniques are being significantly improved. This tinnitus treatment program suggests that patients should be exposed to certain frequencies instead of insulating them as has been the conventional wisdom. Drugs were used to achieve this effect in rats but these still represent dangerous side effects which would not be practical for human beings.

More details on Tinnitus Treatment can be obtained from various websites available online.

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