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Hum Brain Mapp. 2016 Jan;37(1):135-52. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23019. Epub 2015 Oct 12.

Early unilateral cochlear implantation promotes mature cortical asymmetries in adolescents who are deaf.

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Institute of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, Ontario.
Archie's Cochlear Implant Laboratory, the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Unilateral cochlear implant (CI) stimulation establishes hearing to children who are deaf but compromises bilateral auditory development if a second implant is not provided within ∼ 1.5 years. In this study we asked: 1) What are the cortical consequences of missing this early sensitive period once children reach adolescence? 2) What are the effects of unilateral deprivation on the pathways from the opposite ear? Cortical responses were recorded from 64-cephalic electrodes within the first week of bilateral CI activation in 34 adolescents who had over 10 years of unilateral right CI experience and in 16 normal hearing peers. Cortical activation underlying the evoked peaks was localized to areas of the brain using beamformer imaging. The first CI evoked activity which was more strongly lateralized to the contralateral left hemisphere than normal, with abnormal recruitment of the left prefrontal cortex (involved in cognition/attention), left temporo-parietal-occipital junction (multi-modal integration), and right precuneus (visual processing) region. CI stimulation in the opposite deprived ear evoked atypical cortical responses with abnormally large and widespread dipole activity across the cortex. Thus, using a unilateral CI to hear beyond the period of cortical maturation causes lasting asymmetries in the auditory system, requires recruitment of additional cortical areas to support hearing, and does little to protect the unstimulated pathways from effects of auditory deprivation. The persistence of this reorganization into maturity could signal a closing of a sensitive period for promoting auditory development on the deprived side.


adolescent; auditory cortex; bilateral cochlear implant; brain imaging/source localization; cortical maturation; development; evoked related potential/evoked potential/electrophysiology; hearing loss/deafness; single sided deaf; unilateral deaf

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