Winter 2011/12 | Issue home
AUDIO: “Tinnitus: A Pitt Medcast”
As recently as 20 years ago, tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other noise that afflicts people who’ve been exposed to loud sounds—was thought to be an affliction of the ear, but imaging studies eventually proved its source is in the brain. Recently, Pitt investigator Thanos Tzounopoulos, an expert in brain plasticity, uncovered the molecular mechanisms of this long-misunderstood condition, now the most common service-associated disability for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: When hearing is lost, the central nervous system tries to adapt and maintain a certain level of activity, filling the void with these phantom sounds.
VIDEO: THE BRAIN’S REACTION TO SOUND
Using an imaging technique called flavoprotein autofluorescence, Pitt’s Thanos Tzounopoulos showed that the dorsal cochlear nucleus—the first nucleus that ushers sound signals into the brain—is more active in mice with tinnitus (video left) than in healthy mice (right).
For more information on the emerging neuroscience of tinnitus, see our Winter 2011/12 feature story, "Static."
During the University of Pittsburgh's Science2011, we pulled aside Pitt's Jeremy Berg and Harvard's George Whitesides, plied them with a couple of beers (courtesy of Pitt's N. John Cooper, dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences), and asked for their perspectives on what makes genius happen.
Listen to the 'Genius' podcast
To read more about how genius works, and what happens when it does, see our Winter 2011/12 cover story, 'Genius.'