At NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Magdalena Sereda is leading an exciting new line of research looking at neuromodulation as a treatment for tinnitus.

What is neuromodulation?

Tinnitus is thought to result from high levels of coordinated nerve cell activity in particular regions of the brain. Neuromodulation is a type of intervention which aims to modify that activity and reduce tinnitus. Several different neuromodulation therapies using magnetic stimulations, electricity, or sounds, have been tested with people who have tinnitus.

What is transcranial direct current stimulation?

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a form of electrical stimulation. It involves placing two electrodes on the scalp, and passing a small electrical current between them so that it passes through the skull and changes how nerve cells are firing at particular points in the brain. tDCS is safe and with minimal side effects (some people can feel a slight tinging or warm sensation where the electrode is positioned).

Can transcranial direct current stimulation help tinnitus?

Previous research shows that tDCS may be beneficial to people with tinnitus, especially if after multiple sessions. However at present, we have a very limited understanding of what is actually happening in the brain causing tinnitus, and what changes when the brain is stimulated.

Our research and future directions

So far we have conducted a project that confirmed that tDCS is safe. In what will be the first study in the UK on the effects of tDCS on tinnitus, new PhD student Bas Labree will establish the best settings for tinnitus treatment and investigate whether tDCS reduces tinnitus loudness and distress. He will also be using brain scanning to investigate what changes in the brain during treatment sessions. This is an exciting new avenue to investigate both tinnitus treatments, and the brain activity responsible for tinnitus.

About: Magdalena Sereda is a Senior Research Fellow at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, University of Nottingham where she leads programme of research focusing on assessing the effectiveness of sound therapy options for tinnitus and brain stimulation methods for the treatment of tinnitus.