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Bilateral Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex rTMS for Tinnitus Treatment: A Successful Case.


In this report, we describe a successful case with a reduction in tinnitus intensity and distress in a patient subjected to bilateral high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC).

Subjective tinnitus is characterized by the perception of sound in the ears or head when there is no corresponding external stimulus. About 5% to 15% of the adult population perceives these sounds chronically Approximately l%-2% of the general population report severe tinnitus associated with an impact on daily life. Despite extensive literature concerning tinnitus treatment, there are still no evidence-based established treatments for curing tinnitus or for effectively reducing its intensity [1].

Some sham-controlled studies have revealed beneficial effects using rTMS in the treatment of tinnitus. Nevertheless, results show only a moderate or temporary improvement and high variability between individuals. New strategies focusing different brain areas related to tinnitus should be tested and evaluated in new studies [2, 3]. The subcallosal area containing the medial prefrontal (dorsal and ventral) and anterior cingulate cortices has been implicated in tinnitus pathophysiology according to neuroimaging studies, making this area a potential target for tinnitus treatment with rTMS [4, 5]. The use of DMPFC rTMS has been described in the treatment of other disorders and recently it was reported in a series of three cases in patients with major depression in borderline personality disorder with successful results [6].

Given the scientific background, we experimented a new rTMS protocol with promising results described in this case report.

Case Presentation

The patient provided written informed consent. A 51-year-old Caucasian male, an engineer by profession, presented with continuous, bilateral, symmetric tinnitus for 4 years and was previously treated with pharmacological interventions and tinnitus retraining therapy with no reduction in tinnitus intensity or annoyance. The tinnitus worsened with stress and in a silent environment. The patient had no dizziness, hearing loss, or fulness in the ears. He was healthy did not use any medication regularly and had no complaints of pain in the head or neck. An otolaryngological clinical examination and the audiometric and laboratory tests were normal.

The Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) v 5.0 revealed no concomitant psychiatric disorders. The symptom was measured using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) and visual analog scale (VAS), tinnitus pitch matching (PM), loudness matching (LM), and minimal masking level (MML) at baseline, 2 weeks, and 1 and 4 months after treatment.

The rTMS protocol consisted of 10 Hz stimulation at 120% of the resting motor threshold of the extensor hallucis longus. Each session of 10 Hz stimulation applied 3000 pulses to each hemisphere non-simultaneous (6000 pulses total), a duty cycle of 5 seconds on and 10 seconds off, for a total stimulation time of 30 minutes, 5 times a week consecutively for 4 weeks over the bilateral DMPFC (Fz electrode site in the 10/20 International EEG system, corresponding to the 25% of the nasion-inion distance), using the fluid-cooled figure-of-eight-coil (Neurosoft, Neuro-MS/D device).

The baseline, 2-weeks, and 1 - and 4-month follow-up THI and VAS scores and tinnitus loudness and MML are presented in Table 1. At baseline, the patient had moderate tinnitus, grading 38 in THI and 7 in VAS. After 4 weeks of rTMS, the patient effectively responded to the treatment as indicated by a drop greater than 20 points in the THI, a reduction of VAS to 0, and MML and tinnitus loudness reduction to 1 dB, compared to 18 and 15 dB, respectively at baseline. There were no reported side effects after rTMS. At 4 months, the patient displayed sustained remission.


To our knowledge, this is the first report of the use of rTMS targeting the DMPFC to treat tinnitus. The treatment of tinnitus is notoriously challenging and new alternatives are urgently needed. In our report, the patient showed an important and sustained reduction of his tinnitus after bilateral DMPFC-rTMS. Our findings suggest that rTMS targeting the medial prefrontal cortex, specifically the DMPFC, represents a safe and tolerable therapeutic alternative for tinnitus treatment. Evidence shows that tinnitus patients exhibit significantly less gray matter (GM) volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) well as in the DMPFC compared to control participants [4]. Studies have identified that the GM reductions in the DMPFC correlated directly with the proportion of the time participants were aware of their tinnitus. Thus, patients with bigger cortical sulci were aware of their tinnitus more often than those with DMPFC gyrification like control participants, suggesting that this area plays an important role in tinnitus [5]. In a study using voxel based morphometry, there was evidence of significant volume loss in the subcallosal area (which includes the DMPFC) in tinnitus patients [7]. Thus, the subcallosal area may be considered a major hub linking the limbic-affective systems with the thalamo-cortical system.

The first clinical study with tinnitus patients stimulated in deeper brain areas was published by Vanneste et al. [8] in which double-conecoil (DCC) rTMS was applied to the medial frontal cortex of 78 patients, which led to improvement depending on the frequency of the stimulation. A second study with 73 patients was published reporting differences between single session and repeated sessions of 1 Hz DCC TMS prefrontal stimulation (anterior cingulate cortex) for tinnitus treatment. Both single sessions and multiple sessions suppressed tinnitus distress and intensity transiently Multiple sessions generated a higher suppression effect in more patients compared to a single session [9].

A randomized, double-blind pilot trial with 40 patients with chronic tinnitus compared mediofrontal stimulation using DCC (10 Hz) combined with left temporo-parietal stimulation with figure-of-eight-coil (1 Hz) to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex stimulation with the figure-of-eight-coil (10 Hz) combined with temporo-parietal stimulation with the figure-of-eight-coil (1 Hz). The combination of mediofrontal/temporoparietal-rTMS failed to show a better outcome when compared to the dorsolateral prefrontal/temporo-parietal group [10].

The impressive results of this case with important and sustained reduction of tinnitus annoyance and loudness in a previously treated patient suggests that rTMS of the DMPFC is a promising approach for the treatment of tinnitus and is worth further investigation. The coil placement is simple and can be accurately achieved without magnetic resonance imaging guidance. Even though the DMPFC is situated 3-4 cm deep, the figure-of-eight coil can stimulate this area when the motor threshold of the extensor hallucis longus is found [11]. Considering the present report, it can now be said that randomized sham-controlled trials to assess the efficacy of DMPFC-rTMS in tinnitus are important and could drastically, safely, and effectively improve patient's condition.

Informed Consent: Informed consent was obtained from the patients who participated in this study.

Peer-review: Externally peer-reviewed.

Author Contributions: Concept--P.C., M.P., D.S.; Design --P.C., D.S.; Supervision--A.E.N., S.M.; Resource --A.E.N., S.M., M.A.M.; Materials--P.C., M.P; Data Collection/Procesing --P.C., M.P., A.C.; Analysis--P.C., M.P., S.M.; Literature search--P.C.; Writing--P.C., D.S., S.M.; Critical reviews--M.A.M., A.E.N.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank the support provided by the Laboratory of Panic and Respiration and the Institute of Psychiatry, UFRJ.

Conflict of Interest: The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Financial Disclosure: The authors declared that this study has received no financial support.


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[3.] Soleimani R, Jalali MM, Hasandokht T. Therapeutic impact of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on tinnitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2015; 273: 1663-75. [CrossRef]

[4.] Leaver AM, Seydell-Greenwald A, Rauschecker JP Auditory-limbic interactions in chronic tinnitus: Challenges for neuroimaging research. Hear Res 2016; 334: 49-57. [CrossRef]

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[6.] Feffer K, Peters SK, Bhui K, Downar J, Giacobbe P. Sucessful dorsomedial prefrontal cortex rTMS for major depression in borderline personality disorder: three cases. Brain Stimul 2017; 10: 716-7. [CrossRef]

[7.] Muhlau M, Rauschecker JP, Oestreicher E, et al. Structural brain changes in tinnitus. Cereb Cortex 2006; 16: 1283-8. [CrossRef]

[8.] Vanneste S, Plazier M, Van de Heyning P, De Ridder D. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation frequency dependent tinnitus improvement by double cone coil prefrontal stimulation. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2011; 82: 1160-4. [CrossRef]

[9.] Vanneste S, De Ridder D. Differences between a single session and repeated sessions of 1 Hz TMS by double-cone coil prefrontal stimulation for the improvement of tinnitus. Brain Stimul 2013; 6: 155-9. [CrossRef]

[10.] Kreuzer PM, Lehner A, Schlee W, et al. Combined rTMS treatment targeting the anterior cingulate and the temporal cortex for the treatment of chronic tinnitus. Sci Rep 2015; 5: 18028. [CrossRef]

[11.] Deng ZD, Lisanby SH, Peterchev AV Coil design considerations for deep transcranial magnetic stimulation. Clin Neurophysiol 2014; 125: 1202-12. [CrossRef]

Patricia Ciminelli (1), David Sender (2,3), Manoela Palmeira (1), Marco Andre Mezzasalma (1), Arnaldo Cascardo (1), Sergio Machado (1,3), Antonio Egidio Nardi (1)

(1) Laboratory of Panic & Respiration (LABPR), Institute of Psychiatry (IPUB), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

(2) Juiz de Fora Federal University

(3) Physical Activity Neuroscience, Physical Activity Sciences Postgraduate Program--Salgado de Oliveira University, Niteroi, Brazil

Received: April 8, 2018

Accepted: July 1,2018

Available Online Date: November 30, 2018

Correspondence to: Patricia Ciminelli


DOI 10.5152/eurasianjmed.2018.18073
Table 1. Treatment evolution data

           Baseline   2 weeks post   1 month post   4 months post

THI           38           16             14             14
VAS           6            0              0               1
Loudness      18           1              3               4
MML           15           0              3               4

THI: tinnitus handicap inventory; VAS: visual analog scale;
MML: minimal masking level.
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Title Annotation:Case Report
Author:Ciminelli, Patricia; Sender, David; Palmeira, Manoela; Mezzasalma, Marco Andre; Cascardo, Arnaldo; M
Publication:The Eurasian Journal of Medicine
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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