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Ear Hear. 2010 Jun;31(3):302-24. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0b013e3181cdb272.

Auditory brain stem response to complex sounds: a tutorial.

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Department of Communication Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


This tutorial provides a comprehensive overview of the methodological approach to collecting and analyzing auditory brain stem responses to complex sounds (cABRs). cABRs provide a window into how behaviorally relevant sounds such as speech and music are processed in the brain. Because temporal and spectral characteristics of sounds are preserved in this subcortical response, cABRs can be used to assess specific impairments and enhancements in auditory processing. Notably, subcortical auditory function is neither passive nor hardwired but dynamically interacts with higher-level cognitive processes to refine how sounds are transcribed into neural code. This experience-dependent plasticity, which can occur on a number of time scales (e.g., life-long experience with speech or music, short-term auditory training, on-line auditory processing), helps shape sensory perception. Thus, by being an objective and noninvasive means for examining cognitive function and experience-dependent processes in sensory activity, cABRs have considerable utility in the study of populations where auditory function is of interest (e.g., auditory experts such as musicians, and persons with hearing loss, auditory processing, and language disorders). This tutorial is intended for clinicians and researchers seeking to integrate cABRs into their clinical or research programs.

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