Cortical Processing of Vocal and Nonvocal Sounds in Cochlear-Implanted Children: An Electrophysiological Study

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Abstract

Objectives:

For prelingually deaf children, cochlear implants (CIs) can restore auditory input to the auditory cortex and the ability to acquire spoken language. Language development is strongly intertwined with voice perception. The aim of this electrophysiological study was to investigate human voice processing using measures of cortical auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) in pediatric CI users.

Design:

Cortical AEPs were measured in 8 CI children (4 to 12 years old) with good auditory and language performance and 8 normal-hearing (NH) age-matched controls. The auditory stimuli were nonspeech vocal sounds (laughing, sighing, coughing) and environmental sounds (e.g., telephones, alarms, cars, bells, water, wind). Independent component analysis was used to minimize the CI artifact in cortical AEPs.

Results:

Fronto-temporal positivity to vocal sounds was found in NH children, with a significant effect in the 140 to 240 msec latency range. In CI children, there was a positive response to vocal sounds in the 170 to 250 msec latency range, with a more diffuse and anterior distribution than in the NH children.

Conclusions:

Cortical responses to vocal sounds were recorded in CI children. The topography and latency of response to voice differed from that of NH children. The results suggest that cortical reorganization for processing vocal sounds may occur in congenitally deaf children fitted with a CI.

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