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Developmental and aging changes in somatosensory, auditory and visual evoked potentials.


To assess developmental and aging changes in human sensory systems, components of short-latency somatosensory, brain-stem auditory and pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials, thought to originate in specific structures of these systems, were recorded in 286 normal subjects ranging in age from 4 to 95 years. Analysis was primarily restricted to peak and interpeak latencies; visual evoked potential amplitudes were also analyzed. Major results and conclusions are: (1) 'Developmental' changes (that is, decreases in latency attributable to decreased conduction time in younger subjects) were not seen in the median nerve, in brain-stem auditory pathways, or in some portions of visual cortex. Small developmental changes were seen in the somatosensory afferent pathway from the cervical spinal cord to thalamus, and large changes were seen in somatosensory and visual cortex. Cortical developmental changes appeared not to be complete until 17 years of age or later. (2) 'Aging' changes (that is, increases in latency attributable to increased conduction time in older subjects) were observed in the median nerve, cervical spinal cord, brain-stem auditory pathways, and somatosensory and visual cortex. (3) Visual evoked potential amplitudes tended to decrease with age, particularly during development; amplitude and latency effects were dissimilar for most components. (4) Males tended to show larger aging effects than females. (5) The results suggest that age-related changes in human sensory systems are not uniform, but rather are different in specific portions of these systems, different at particular epochs of the life span, and stronger in males than in females.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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