Every couple of weeks someone asks how goes those UT-Dallas docs' tinnitus research, which, last we heard, would begin with clinical trials in Belgium. Well, so happens that Dr. Michael Kilgard and Dr. Navzer Engineer, hoping to discover the sound of silence via nerve stimulation, are over there at this very moment -- "and we hope to have some results in the next month, some early results," says UTD spokesperson Emily Martinez.
Those of us among the 250 million worldwide afflicted with that constant high-pitched whine in our ears anxiously await the results. Also: I always look forward to using the phrase "Dr. Engineer."
The reason I called Martinez this afternoon was this UTD dispatch concerning further tinnitus research taking place at the school, courtesy a three-year, $135,000 grant from the American Tinnitus Association. Turns out, Dr. Tres Thompson's tinnitus work isn't related to his colleagues' study; this, says Martinez, is a bit more "basic science." But long story short: Thompson's looking into whether the cause of that perpetual ringing is related to
the hippocampus, the part of the brain that actually has to do with memory-making. According to the UTD release, Thompson discovered that ...
... exposure to loud noises induces plasticity in the hippocampus, a section of the brain not primarily associated with hearing but known for learning-related plasticity. This neuroplasticity -- changes in the function of the brain in reaction to experiences -- could open the door to long-term tinnitus. ... The next stage of research will focus on drug treatments aimed at reducing or reversing plasticity. Thompson wants to test whether certain drugs targeting plasticity mechanisms might inhibit or change plasticity, protecting against tinnitus.
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Says Martinez, "I still get emails on a weekly basis from patients all over the world eager for hopeful news about treatments." Whatever works.