Human Auditory Steady-State Responses: The Effects of Recording Technique and State of Arousal

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There is some controversy in the literature about whether auditory steady-state responses (ASSRs) can be reliably recorded in all subjects and whether these responses consistently decrease in amplitude during drowsiness. In 10 subjects, 40-Hz ASSRs became significantly different from background electroencephalogram activity with a probability of P < 0.01 and an average time of 22 s (range, 2–92 s), provided that the responses were analyzed with time-domain averaging rather than spectral averaging. In a second experiment with 10 subjects, 40-Hz ASSRs recorded between the vertex and posterior neck consistently decreased in amplitude during drowsiness and sleep. Findings that the ASSR may occasionally increase during drowsiness may be explained by postauricular muscle responses recorded from a mastoid reference. These may occur during drowsiness in association with rolling-eye movements. ASSRs recorded between the vertex and posterior neck are not distorted by these reflexes. These findings combine with previous literature on the effects of general anesthetics on the ASSR to confirm that the ASSR is a valid option for monitoring the hypnotic effects of general anesthetics.

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