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Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2015 Aug;2015:1654-7. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2015.7318693.

Mental workload estimations in unilateral deafened children.


Despite of technological innovations, noisy environments still constitute a challenging and stressful situation for words recognition by hearing impaired subjects. The evaluation of the mental workload imposed by the noisy environments for the recognition of the words in prelingually deaf children is then of paramount importance since it could affect the speed of the learning process during scholar period.The aim of the present study was to investigate different electroencephalographic (EEG) power spectral density (PSD) components (in theta 4-8 Hz - and alpha - 8-12 Hz - frequency bands) to estimate the mental workload index in different noise conditions during a word recognition task in prelingually deaf children, a population not yet investigated in relation to the workload index during auditory tasks. A pilot study involving a small group of prelingually deaf children was then subjected to EEG recordings during an auditory task composed by a listening and a successive recognition of words with different noise conditions. Results showed that in the pre-word listening phase frontal EEG PSD in theta band and the ratio of the frontal EEG PSD in theta band and the parietal EEG PSD in alpha band (workload index; IWL) reported highest values in the most demanding noise condition. In addition, in the phase preceding the word forced-choice task the highest parietal EEG PSD in alpha band and IWL values were reported at the presumably simplest condition (noise emitted in correspondence of the subject's deaf ear). These results could suggest the prominence of EEG PSD theta component activity in the pre-word listening phase. In addition, a more challenging noise situation in the pre-choice phase would be so "over-demanding" to fail to enhance both the alpha power and the IWL in comparison to the already demanding "simple" condition.

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