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J Neurosci. 2017 Mar 1;37(9):2349-2361. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2538-16.2017. Epub 2017 Jan 25.

Cortical Representation of Interaural Time Difference Is Impaired by Deafness in Development: Evidence from Children with Early Long-term Access to Sound through Bilateral Cochlear Implants Provided Simultaneously.

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Archie's Cochlear Implant Laboratory, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada,
Collaborative Program in Neuroscience, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.
Archie's Cochlear Implant Laboratory, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada.
Department of Otolaryngology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2N2, Canada, and.
Department of Otolaryngology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada.


Accurate use of interaural time differences (ITDs) for spatial hearing may require access to bilateral auditory input during sensitive periods in human development. Providing bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) simultaneously promotes symmetrical development of bilateral auditory pathways but does not support normal ITD sensitivity. Thus, although binaural interactions are established by bilateral CIs in the auditory brainstem, potential deficits in cortical processing of ITDs remain. Cortical ITD processing in children with simultaneous bilateral CIs and normal hearing with similar time-in-sound was explored in the present study. Cortical activity evoked by bilateral stimuli with varying ITDs (0, ±0.4, ±1 ms) was recorded using multichannel electroencephalography. Source analyses indicated dominant activity in the right auditory cortex in both groups but limited ITD processing in children with bilateral CIs. In normal-hearing children, adult-like processing patterns were found underlying the immature P1 (∼100 ms) response peak with reduced activity in the auditory cortex ipsilateral to the leading ITD. Further, the left cortex showed a stronger preference than the right cortex for stimuli leading from the contralateral hemifield. By contrast, children with CIs demonstrated reduced ITD-related changes in both auditory cortices. Decreased parieto-occipital activity, possibly involved in spatial processing, was also revealed in children with CIs. Thus, simultaneous bilateral implantation in young children maintains right cortical dominance during binaural processing but does not fully overcome effects of deafness using present CI devices. Protection of bilateral pathways through simultaneous implantation might be capitalized for ITD processing with signal processing advances, which more consistently represent binaural timing cues.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Multichannel electroencephalography demonstrated impairment of binaural processing in children who are deaf despite early access to bilateral auditory input by first finding that foundations for binaural hearing are normally established during early stages of cortical development. Although 4- to 7-year-old children with normal hearing had immature cortical responses, adult patterns in cortical coding of binaural timing cues were measured. Second, children receiving two cochlear implants in the same surgery maintained normal-like input from both ears, but this did not support significant effects of binaural timing cues in either auditory cortex. Deficits in parieto-occiptal areas further suggested impairment in spatial processing. Results indicate that cochlear implants working independently in each ear do not fully overcome deafness-related binaural processing deficits, even after long-term experience.


beamformer; hearing loss; right dominance; simultaneous bilateral cochlear implant; source localization; spatial processing

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