Help for Tinnitus: Neurostimulator from Jülich
You hear a humming, rattling, whistling or ringing sound. Doctors call these noises sufferers hear Tinnitus (from the Latin tinnire - to ring) and the condition is estimated to affect about three million Germans. Research results from Forschungszentrum Jülich serve as the basis for a new treatment referred to as neurostimulation. Early results of a clinical study show that targeted acoustic stimuli individually adjusted to the particular frequency of tinnitus can alleviate symptoms.
Around 5% of the population suffer from tinnitus. For one-third of them, the ringing in the ears is so strong that in some cases, it considerably impairs quality of life. The reasons for the non-stop noises are malfunctions in the brain, which cause the neurons to fire signals excessively and synchronously instead of in a controlled and sequential manner.
Prof. Peter Tass of Forschungszentrum Jülich has developed an innovative method that can be used to suppress synchronous firing of the neurons. With a mathematical stimulation algorithm, referred to as coordinated reset (CR), the unwanted synchronization of the neurons is deliberately destroyed. Adapted to the individual, CR sends weak impulses to the pathologically hyperactive and highly synchronous neuron clusters at various times and restores them to long-term "healthy chaos".
The stimulation encourages the neural networks in the brain to reorganize themselves, which is why the stimulator brings about lasting relief. The initial results of the clinical study have proven that the volume of the noise and the subjective discomfort caused by tinnitus decreased continuously – after only twelve weeks of treatment, by 40 and 33 percentage points, respectively, whereas in the placebo group the figures were only 9 and 8 percentage points. In addition, the tinnitus frequency is lower and thus more tolerable.
The same algorithm is also being tested in a second clinical application with the brain pacemaker for treating Parkinson's disease. Here too, selective stimulation disrupts the undesirable synchronous firing of the neurons and in so doing, relieves the symptoms such as the tremor experienced by patients with Parkinson's.
Forschungszentrum Jülich aims to cooperate with professional and committed partners in marketing CR technology both for the non-invasive treatment of tinnitus and also for the invasive (deep brain stimulation, DBS) treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Research results have already been transferred to practical applications in treating tinnitus. From 2005 until 2013, Forschungszentrum Jülich cooperated with ANM Adaptive Neuromodulation GmbH in this field. Since the beginning of this year, Jülich has been collaborating with a new technology partner, the British company Brook Henderson Group.