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J Am Acad Audiol. 1993 Jul;4(4):238-48.

Speech-evoked cortical potentials in children.

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Department of Communication Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208.


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were obtained to synthesized speech stimuli in 16 school-aged children (7-11 years) and compared to responses in 10 adults. P1, N1, and P2 event-related potentials were elicited by the phoneme /ga/. The mismatch negativity (MMN) was elicited by variants of /da/ and /ga/, which differ in the onset frequency of the second and third formant transitions. In general, the well-defined N1/P2 complex characteristic of the adult response, was not found in children. Waves P1 and N1 had longer peak latencies in children than in adults. Wave P2 amplitude was smaller in children than in adults. In contrast to the often poorly delineated earlier cortical potentials, the MMN was well defined in children. Significant MMNs were obtained in all subjects tested. MMN magnitude (peak amplitude and area) was significantly larger in the children. No significant differences were found in peak latency and duration of the MMN in children compared to the adult response. Another negative wave occurring at 400 msec was also observed in response to the deviant stimuli. This negative wave occurred at a similar latency in adults and children and was significantly larger and more robust in children. Results support the view that development of ERPs does not involve a hierarchical process with respect to latency. That is, earlier occurring waves do not necessarily mature before later occurring waves. The latencies of P1, N1, and P2 and overall morphology of these waves may provide a measure of maturation of central pathways. The early development of the MMN, its apparent robustness in school-aged children, and its reflection of the processing of acoustic differences in speech stimuli suggest its possible use in the assessment of central auditory function.

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