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Tinnitus could be associated with neuronal hyperactivity in the auditory center. As a neuronal activity marker, immediate-early gene (IEG) expression is considered part of a general neuronal response to natural stimuli. Some IEGs, especially the activity-dependent cytoskeletal protein (Arc) and the early growth response gene-1 (Egr-1), appear to be highly correlated with sensory-evoked neuronal activity. We hypothesize, therefore, an increase of Arc and Egr-1 will be observed in a tinnitus model. In our study, we used the gap prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle (GPIAS) paradigm to confirm that salicylate induces tinnitus-like behavior in rats. However, expression of the Arc gene and Egr-1 gene were decreased in the inferior colliculus (IC) and auditory cortex (AC), in contradiction of our hypothesis. Expression of N-methyl d-aspartate receptor subunit 2B (NR2B) was increased and all of these changes returned to normal 14 days after treatment with salicylate ceased. These data revealed long-time administration of salicylate induced tinnitus markedly but reversibly and caused neural plasticity changes in the IC and the AC. Decreased expression of Arc and Egr-1 might be involved with instability of synaptic plasticity in tinnitus.
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