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Hear Res. 2008 Feb;236(1-2):61-79. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2007.12.001. Epub 2007 Dec 15.

The maturation of human evoked brain potentials to sounds presented at different stimulus rates.

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Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1410 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


The current study assessed the normal development of cortical auditory evoked potentials (CAEPs) in humans presented with pure tone stimuli at relatively fast stimulus rates. Traditionally, maturation of sound processing indexed by CAEPs has been studied in paradigms using inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs) generally slower than 1 Hz. While long ISIs may enhance the amplitude of CAEP components, speech information generally occurs at more rapid rates. These slower rates of sound presentation may not accurately assess auditory cortical functions in more realistic sound environments. We examined the effect of temporal rate on the elicitation of the P1-N1-P2-N2 components to unattended sounds at four levels of stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA, onset to onset, 200, 400, 600, and 800 ms) in children grouped separately by year (ages 8, 9, 10, 11 years), in adolescents (age 16 years) and in one group of young adults (ages 22-40 years). We found that both age and stimulus rate produced profound changes in CAEP morphology. Between the ages of 8-11 years, the P1 and N2 components dominated the ERP waveform at all stimulus rates. N1, the dominant CAEP component in adults, appeared as a bifurcation in a broad positive peak at earlier ages, and did not emerge as a separate component until adolescence. While the P1-N1-P2 components are more "adult-like" than "child-like" in the adolescent subjects, the N2 component, a hallmark of the child obligatory response, was still present. Faster rates resulted in the suppression of discrete components such that by 200 ms, only P1 in the adults and adolescents, and both P1 and N2 in the youngest children were discernable. We conclude that both age and ISI are important variables in the assessment of auditory cortex function and maturation. The presence of N2 in adolescents indicates that auditory cortical maturation persists into teen years.

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