I will describe a behavioral neuroscience article titled Consequences of suppressing thoughts about tinnitus and the effects of cognitive distraction on brain activity in tinnitus patients by Andersson et al. (2006) out of Sweden.
The objective of the study was to compare attention vs. suppression to thoughts of tinnitus and how different brain responses were elicited. The group observed regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) levels using positron emission tomograph (PET) technology. The process assumes that with increased blood flow to an area of the brain, regional activity is increased.
The interesting aspect of this study includes 8 tinnitus patients who were instructed to perform the serial seven test (count backwards form 100 by intervals of 7). These individuals exhibited decreases in subjective annoyance/loudness and neural activity in the auditory cortex.
This relates to the global theory and top-down processing models. Does this provide more questions or answers about our understanding of tinnitus?
The distracting task improved tinnitus presentation subjectively for these patients. In addition, the task objectively reduced rCBF levels. Cognitive therapy is encouraged from these findings (CBT, TRT, etc). This leads to some clinical questions.
What other tasks can distract the tinnitus patient in this sense?
Does amplification via hearing aids play into this distraction as the mind decodes previously inaudible auditory messages? Can uptake in challenging mental activities (language, music, physical activity) affect the rCBF levels for bothersome tinnitus in the same way?
Andersson G, Jüris L, Classon E, Fredrikson M, Furmark T. Consequences of suppressing thoughts about tinnitus and the effects of cognitive distraction on brain activity in tinnitus patients. Audiology & Neuro-otology. 2006 ;11(5):301-309. DOI: 10.1159/000094460.