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So, my basic understanding is this:

A neuron can either send a signal, or not. Sending a signal costs energy & work (and the neuron might only survive so and so many send-cycles).

So let's say the output of a neuron tells you whether a state is assumed, or not.
To keep the neuron alive and energy consumption low, if the state being assumed is the rarer occasion, then the neuron sends a signal if the state is being assumed, and vice versa.
I'd now guess that hearing a sound (or more low level, a sound wave being of a certain frequency being in the air), is more unlikely than the converse.

So for a person with a Tinnitus that produces a constant sound, somewhere in the brain/the receptory neurons for hearing, we should have one/a few neurons that fire permanently.

We should know rather broadly where the information processing for sounds happens, and neurons that always send should be anomalies (as a neuron that always sends doesn't transmit any information at all).

So why can't we just scan for neurons in those regions permanently firing, and then destroy them?

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  • How would individual neurons be located and measured? How would they be destroyed without destroying surrounding neurons? How would the patient not end up with total deafness in the frequencies sensed by the destroyed neurons?
    – Carey Gregory
    Sep 20 '20 at 15:41
  • @CareyGregory As far as I know, it is not uncommon that a Tinnitus is created especially because of partial deafness in the corresponding frequencies. Then there's the fraction of people with that illness that would be willing to accept that tradeback. I'd guess that it's more than one neuron going haywire, as otherwise Tinnitus would more regularly "spontaneously heal" (by the neuron dying). So, if it is a small cluster of neurons gone haywire, is it that we can't pinpoint its location that's stopping us from testing whether destroying it works?
    – Sudix
    Sep 20 '20 at 23:52
  • I don't know how finely doctors can identify neurons and destroy them selectively without destroying entire regions. Do you? Seems to me that ought to be part of your question as prior research.
    – Carey Gregory
    Sep 21 '20 at 4:02
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    I'm thinking that destroying 10k neurons almost anywhere in the brain can quite possibly have profound, unintended effects, so that puts us back to how finely surgeons can identify targets in a living human brain. At the individual neuron level? I seriously doubt that. At the 10k group level? Maybe, but I kind of doubt that too. Adding credible links to get me past these doubts would make your question a lot better. Right now it's one of those "Did really smart people spend decades missing the obvious answer I just thought of?" kind of questions.
    – Carey Gregory
    Sep 22 '20 at 4:32
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    Well, the first reason I can think of is it would convert tinnitus into total deafness for whatever it is those 10K neurons respond to. That sounds more like harm than treatement.
    – Carey Gregory
    Sep 25 '20 at 5:13

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