Changes of metabolism and functional connectivity in late-onset deafness: Evidence from cerebral 18F-FDG-PET

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Hearing loss is known to impact brain function. The aim of this study was to characterize cerebral metabolic Positron Emission Tomography (PET) changes in elderly patients fulfilling criteria for cochlear implant and investigate the impact of hearing loss on functional connectivity. Statistical Parametric Mapping-T-scores-maps comparisons of 18F-FDG-PET of 27 elderly patients fulfilling criteria for cochlear implant for hearing loss (best-aided speech intelligibility lower or equal to 50%) and 27 matched healthy subjects (p < 0.005, corrected for volume extent) were performed. Metabolic connectivity was evaluated through interregional correlation analysis. Patients were found to have decreased metabolism within the right associative auditory cortex, while increased metabolism was found in prefrontal areas, pre- and post-central areas, the cingulum and the left inferior parietal gyrus. The right associative auditory cortex was integrated into a network of increased metabolic connectivity that included pre- and post-central areas, the cingulum, the right inferior parietal gyrus, as well as the striatum on both sides. Metabolic values of the right associative auditory cortex and left inferior parietal gyrus were positively correlated with performance on neuropsychological test scores. These findings provide further insight into the reorganization of the connectome through sensory loss and compensatory mechanisms in elderly patients with severe hearing loss.

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