Top-down and bottom-up regulated auditory phantom perception

Sven Vanneste, Ola Alsalman, Dirk De Ridder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Auditory phantom percepts such as tinnitus are associated with auditory deafferentation. The idea is that auditory deafferentation limits the amount of information the brain can acquire to make sense of the world. Because of this, auditory deafferentation increases the uncertainty of the auditory environment. To minimize uncertainty, the deafferented brain will attempt to obtain or fill in the missing information. A proposed multiphase compensation model suggests two distinct types of bottom-up related tinnitus: an auditory cortex related tinnitus and a parahippocampal cortex related tinnitus. The weakness of this model is that it cannot explain why some people without hearing loss develop tinnitus, whereas conversely others with hearing loss do not develop tinnitus. In this human study, we provide evidence for a top-down type of tinnitus associated with a deficient noise-cancelling mechanism. A total of 72 participants (age: 40.96 ±7.67 years; males: 48; females: 24) were recruited for this study. We demonstrate that top-down related tinnitus is related to a change in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex that corresponds to increased activity in the auditory cortex. This is in accordance with the idea that tinnitus can have different generators as proposed in a recent model that suggests that different compensation mechanisms at a cortical level can be linked to phantom percepts. Significance Statement Chronic tinnitus affects 15% of the population worldwide. The term “tinnitus” however represents a highly heterogeneous condition, as evidenced by the fact that there are no effective treatments or even an adequate understanding of the underlying neural mechanisms. Consistent with this idea, our research shows that tinnitus indeed has different subtypes related to hearing loss. In a human study tightly controlled for hearing loss, we establish a tinnitus subtype associated with a deficient top-down noise-cancelling mechanism, which distinguishes it from bottom-up subtypes. We demonstrate that top-down related tinnitus relates to a change in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex that corresponds to increased activity in the auditory cortex, whereas bottom-up tinnitus instead relates to changes in the parahippocampal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-378
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 9 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory cortex
  • Hearing loss
  • Parahippocampus
  • Pregenual anterior cingulate cortex
  • Tinnitus
  • Top-down


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