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Neuroimage Clin. 2013 Jul 2;3:8-17. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2013.06.016. eCollection 2013.

Left ear advantage in speech-related dichotic listening is not specific to auditory processing disorder in children: A machine-learning fMRI and DTI study.

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Pediatric Neuroimaging Research Consortium, Dept. of Radiology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, United States.


Dichotic listening (DL) tests are among the most frequently included in batteries for the diagnosis of auditory processing disorders (APD) in children. A finding of atypical left ear advantage (LEA) for speech-related stimuli is often taken by clinical audiologists as an indicator for APD. However, the precise etiology of ear advantage in DL tests has been a source of debate for decades. It is uncertain whether a finding of LEA is truly indicative of a sensory processing deficit such as APD, or whether attentional or other supramodal factors may also influence ear advantage. Multivariate machine learning was used on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional MRI (fMRI) data from a cohort of children ages 7-14 referred for APD testing with LEA, and typical controls with right-ear advantage (REA). LEA was predicted by: increased axial diffusivity in the left internal capsule (sublenticular region), and decreased functional activation in the left frontal eye fields (BA 8) during words presented diotically as compared to words presented dichotically, compared to children with right-ear advantage (REA). These results indicate that both sensory and attentional deficits may be predictive of LEA, and thus a finding of LEA, while possibly due to sensory factors, is not a specific indicator of APD as it may stem from a supramodal etiology.


Attention; Auditory processing disorder; Dichotic listening tests; Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Functional laterality

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