July 13, 2010
Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D.
The American Tinnitus Association (www.ata.org) is an influential international organization dedicated to curing tinnitus through improving the resources, information and assistance available to sufferers of tinnitus, and advancing scientific research and technology development.
“Dr. Zhang’s vast experience and expertise will add depth to the committee,” said Daniel Born, research director of the American Tinnitus Association.
Tinnitus is a phantom sound sensation in the ear, head or brain. It usually takes the form of a ringing noise, a high-pitched whining, buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tingling or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, "crickets" or "tree frogs" or "locusts," tunes, songs, beeping, or even a pure tone like that heard in a hearing test. Tinnitus can be intermittent or it can be continuous and long-lasting.
Tinnitus can have debilitating effects by altering emotional and psychological well being and disrupting daily living. Unrelenting tinnitus can produce anxiety, annoyance and irritability; disrupt concentration; and contribute to depression. All of these problems can threaten patients’ futures with potential long-term sleep disruption, changes in cognitive ability, stress in relationships and employability challenges, and thus can become devastating.
Tinnitus is a highly prevalent public health problem among both civilian and military populations who suffer from noise, explosion impact and many other factors. The prevalence of tinnitus creates a serious economic burden for the federal government and society. Tinnitus affects an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of the adult population and 33 percent of the elderly population. About 1 percent to 3 percent of the population has significant distress that seriously impacts their quality of life due to the condition. According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus impacts up to 50 million Americans and reduces quality of life for 250 million people worldwide. Tinnitus is the No. 1 service-connected disability for military veterans.
“I am very happy to be elected by the American Tinnitus Association to serve on its Scientific Advisory Committee, and feel honored to be able to work with a group of wonderful experts in the field,” Dr. Zhang said. “The American Tinnitus Association is a prestigious, influential and respected international organization. It has been doing remarkable work in helping tinnitus sufferers, promoting tinnitus research and advocating the impact of tinnitus and conducting research to find a cure at Congress, federal government agencies and many other public venues. I greatly admire what the association and other colleagues have done to achieve these goals. I will do my best to contribute my expertise in any manners to the American Tinnitus Association.”
Dr. Zhang’s research interests include working to understand the mechanisms underlying tinnitus, to develop treatment strategies for tinnitus and to develop prostheses for hearing restoration. In tinnitus research, the team led by Dr. Zhang promises to offer unique inroads to the field of tinnitus. Their research efforts are expected to impact the discovery of new knowledge about fundamental principles in neuroscience and to develop novel therapeutics for tinnitus using cutting-edge technologies.
Specifically, his group has been pursuing suppression of tinnitus and tinnitus-related neural activity through electrical stimulation. Several types of electrical stimulation, such as somatosensory, cochlea, and auditory brain stimulation, have been used to suppress the percepts or reduce the loudness of tinnitus in patients. Due to a lack of understanding of the mechanisms underlying tinnitus and suppression of tinnitus, electrical stimulation has not been well established as a reliable therapy for treating tinnitus. In his animal model of electrical stimulation to suppress tinnitus, Dr. Zhang and his colleagues take a multidisciplinary approach by combining multichannel electrical stimulation of the auditory cortex with a novel behavioral paradigm and multi-structure recordings. The immediate goal of this research is to identify targeted brain areas and neural pathways for stimulation and to determine optimal stimulation strategies to effectively suppress tinnitus and its neural correlates. To enhance the efficiency of stimulation, he and his engineer colleagues are developing new devices that can be used to stimulate the brain electrically and chemically, and process the tinnitus-related neural signals using sophisticated mathematical modeling and software tools.
He is collaborating with clinicians at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University affiliated hospitals to conduct clinical research in patients. The eventual goal of this effort is to translate their laboratory findings to applications in patients.