Objectives/Hypothesis: Correlate subjective improvements in tinnitus severity with restoration of cortical symmetry and sustained attention after neuronavigated low-frequency, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).
Study Design: Case study.
Methods: Positron emission tomography and computed tomography imaging (PET-CT) guided rTMS was performed on a 43-year-old white male with more than a 30 year history of bilateral tinnitus. rTMS was administered to the area of increased cortical activation visualized on PET-CT at a rate of 1 Hz for 30 minutes (1,800 pulses/session) for each of 5 consecutive days, with optimization applied on day 5 using single pulses of TMS to temporarily alter tinnitus perception. Subjective tinnitus severity was rated before and after rTMS using the tinnitus severity index with analogue scale. Attention and vigilance were assessed before and after therapy using the psychomotor vigilance task (PVT), a simple reaction time test that is sensitive to thalamocortical contributions to sustained attention. Posttherapy PET-CT was used to evaluate any change in asymmetric cortical activation.
Results: The most marked reduction in tinnitus severity occurred after rTMS optimization; this persisted up to 4 weeks after rTMS. PVT testing showed the patient exhibited a statistically significant improvement in mean slowest 10% reaction times after rTMS (P = .004). PET-CT imaging 2 days after the cessation of rTMS showed no changes in cortical blood flow or metabolic asymmetries.
Conclusions: Low-frequency rTMS applied to the primary auditory cortex can reduce tinnitus severity, with rTMS optimization yielding the most favorable results. Beneficial changes occurring in the patient's slowest reaction times suggest that attentional deficits associated with tinnitus may also respond to low-frequency rTMS.