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High Alt Med Biol. 2017 Mar;18(1):37-45. doi: 10.1089/ham.2016.0082. Epub 2016 Nov 18.

Assessment of the Brainstem-Mediated Stapedius Muscle Reflex in Andean Children Living at High Altitudes.

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1 Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School/The Biological Laboratories , Cambridge, Massachusetts.
2 Department of Neurophysiology, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, Massachusetts.
3 Department of Otolaryngology, Audiology Clinic, Harvard University Health Services , Cambridge, Massachusetts.
4 Colegio Ciencias de la Salud, Escuela de Salud Pública, Galapagos Institute of Arts and Sciences GAIAS, Universidad San Francisco de Quito , Quito, Ecuador .
5 Harvard Biological Laboratories , Cambridge, Massachusetts.
6 Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University , Uppsala, Sweden .


Counter, S. Allen, Leo H. Buchanan, Fernando Ortega, Anthony B. Jacobs, and Göran Laurell. Assessment of the brainstem-mediated stapedius muscle reflex in Andean children living at high altitudes. High Alt Med Biol. 18:37-45, 2017.-This study examined the physiological thresholds, amplitude growth, and contraction duration of the acoustic stapedius reflex (ASR) in Andean children aged 2-17 years living at altitudes of 2850 m (Altitude I Group) and 3973 m (Altitude II Group) as part of a general medical assessment of the health status of the children. The brainstem-mediated ASR reveals the integrity of the neuronal components of the auditory reflex arc, including the cochlea receptors, eight cranial nerves, and brainstem neural projections to the cochlear nuclei, bilateral superior olivary nuclei, facial nerve nuclei, and facial nerve and its stapedius branch. Uncrossed (ipsilateral) and crossed (contralateral) ASR thresholds (ASRT), ASR amplitude growth (ASRG) function, and ASR muscle contraction duration (decay/fatigue) (ASRD) were measured noninvasively with 500, 1000 Hz and broadband (bandwidth = 125-4000 Hz) noise stimulus activators using a middle ear immittance system. Oxygen saturation (SaO2) level and heart rate were measured in a subsample of the study group. Statistical analyses revealed that the Altitude I and Altitude II groups had ASRT, ASRG function, and ASRD rates comparable to children at sea level and that the two groups were not significantly different for any of the ASR measures. No significant association was found between SaO2 or heart rate and ASRT, growth, and muscle fatigue rate. In conclusion, the assessment of the ASR in children in the high-altitude groups revealed normal function. Furthermore, the results indicate no adverse oto-physiological effects of altitude on the brainstem-mediated ASR at elevations between 2850 and 4000 m and suggest normal middle ear and auditory brainstem function.


Andean; altitude; auditory; brainstem; children; hearing; hypoxia; stapedius reflex

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