Tinnitus and pain share similarities in their anatomy, pathophysiology, clinical picture and treatments. Based on what is known in the pain field, a heuristic model can be proposed for the pathophysiolgy of tinnitus.
This heuristic pathophysiological model suggests that pain and tinnitus are the consequence of an imbalance between two pain/tinnitus evoking pathways, i.e., a lateral sensory pathway and a medial affective pathway, both of which are not balanced anymore by a pain/noise inhibitory pathway.
Mechanistically, based on the Bayesian brain concept, it can be explained by a switch occuring under influence of the rostral to dorsal anterior cingulate cortex of its prior predictions, i.e., a reference resetting, in which the pain/tinnitus state is considered as the new reference state.
This reference resetting is confirmed by the nucleus accumbens as part of the reward system and maintained by connectivity changes between the nucleus accumbens and the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex. As a consequence it can be suggested to treat pain/tinnitus via reconditioning, either surgically or non-surgically. The model can also be used to develop objective measures for tinnitus and pain via supervised machine learning.
The Bayesian Brain In Imbalance