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Temporal processing ability is related to ear-asymmetry for detecting time cues in sound: A mismatch negativity (MMN) study

Temporal and spectral sound information is processed asymmetrically in the brain with the left-hemisphere showing an advantage for processing the former and the right-hemisphere for the latter. Using monaural sound presentation we demonstrate a context and ability dependent ear-asymmetry in brain measures of temporal change detection. Our measure of temporal processing ability was a gap-detection task quantifying the smallest silent gap in a sound that participants could reliably detect. Our brain measure was the size of the mismatch-negativity (MMN) auditory event-related potential elicited to infrequently presented gap sounds. The MMN indexes discrimination ability and is automatically generated when the brain detects a change in a repeating pattern of sound. MMN was elicited in unattended sequences of infrequent gap-sounds presented among regular no-gap sounds. In Study 1, participants with low gap-detection thresholds (good ability) produced a significantly larger MMN to gap sounds when sequences were presented monaurally to the right-ear than to the left-ear. In Study 2, we replicated a right-ear-advantage for MMN in silence in good temporal processors, but also show that this is reversed to a significant left-ear-advantage for MMN when the same sounds are presented against a background of constant low-level noise. In both studies, poor discriminators showed no ear-advantage, and in Study 2, exhibited no differential sensitivity of the ears to noise. We conclude that these data reveal a context and ability-dependent asymmetry in processing temporal information in non-speech sounds.

from Neuropsychologia

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Differential cerebral reactivity to shortest and longer tones: Neuromagnetic and behavioral evidence

Detecting a change in sound duration is important in language processing. The cerebral reactivity to a duration deviant in oddball paradigm has been reflected as a mismatch negativity (MMN). This study aimed to see cerebral responses to several duration-varying sounds presented with equal probability. Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) and behavior responses to equi-probable sounds (25-50-75-100-125ms or 50-75-100-125-150ms tones) were recorded in 10 healthy adult volunteers. By subtracting the average of the responses to 4 longer tones from the response to the shortest tone, a clear deflection peaking at 100˜200 ms from stimulus onset was identified. This activity was called as sub-standard MMNm, and its amplitude tended to increase with the increment of duration deviance within a stimulation paradigm. The source of sub-standard MMNm was localized in superior temporal area, with 5˜6 mm more anterior to the generator of N100 m response. Behavioral tests also showed best performance in the recognition of the shortest tone than longer tones. In conclusion, the preferential response to the shortest tone in an equiprobable paradigm suggests an asymmetrical processing in the auditory cortex for duration-varying sounds.

from Hearing Research

Cerebellum, Language, and Cognition in Autism and Specific Language Impairment

Abstract We performed cerebellum segmentation and parcellation on magnetic resonance images from right-handed boys, aged 6–13 years, including 22 boys with autism [16 with language impairment (ALI)], 9 boys with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), and 11 normal controls. Language-impaired groups had reversed asymmetry relative to unimpaired groups in posterior-lateral cerebellar lobule VIIIA (right side larger in unimpaired groups, left side larger in ALI and SLI), contralateral to previous findings in inferior frontal cortex language areas. Lobule VIIA Crus I was smaller in SLI than in ALI. Vermis volume, particularly anterior I–V, was decreased in language-impaired groups. Language performance test scores correlated with lobule VIIIA asymmetry and with anterior vermis volume. These findings suggest ALI and SLI subjects show abnormalities in neurodevelopment of fronto-corticocerebellar circuits that manage motor control and the processing of language, cognition, working memory, and attention.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Structural Analysis of Heschl’s Gyrus in Schizophrenia Patients with Auditory Hallucinations

Background/Aims: Heschl’s gyrus (HG) is functionally involved in the genesis of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH). This dysfunction seems to be structurally facilitated. The aim of the study was to analyze macrostructural features of HG in a group of patients reporting AVH who demonstrated white matter diffusion tensor imaging abnormalities reported previously. Methods: 3-D anatomical MR scans were obtained (patients with and without history of AVH, controls). HG was delineated by manual segmentation. Cortical folding, absolute and relative volumes, laterality were analyzed. Results: According to the literature, in the collapsed group of patients, the normal left-greater-than-right laterality of HG was attenuated. We found a trend towards a higher number of duplicated HG in hallucinating patients. We also found a bigger volume of HG in the right hemisphere in hallucinating patients. This effect was caused by gray and white matter increase. Conclusions: This is the first study on manual volumetry of HG in a group of schizophrenia patients with AVH compared to patients without AVH. In a previous analysis of the diffusion tensor imaging data of the here presented sample, we found higher directionality of the arcuate fasciculus in patients with AVH, facilitating abnormal co-activation in the auditory cortices in the hallucinating brain. As these abnormal activations are frequent in hallucinating patients, the here described volume increase of HG might be interpreted as compensatory plastic adaptations of the contralateral regions. We suggest that this volume increase of HG is caused by the symptomatology and not by the underlying disorder of schizophrenia.

from Neuropsychology

Right visual field advantage in parafoveal processing: Evidence from eye-fixation-related potentials

Readers acquire information outside the current eye fixation. Previous research indicates that having only the fixated word available slows reading, but when the next word is visible, reading is almost as fast as when the whole line is seen. Parafoveal-on-foveal effects are interpreted to reflect that the characteristics of a parafoveal word can influence fixation on a current word. Prior studies also show that words presented to the right visual field (RVF) are processed faster and more accurately than words in the left visual field (LVF). This asymmetry results either from an attentional bias, reading direction, or the cerebral asymmetry of language processing. We used eye-fixation-related potentials (EFRP), a technique that combines eye-tracking and electroencephalography, to investigate visual field differences in parafoveal-on-foveal effects. After a central fixation, a prime word appeared in the middle of the screen together with a parafoveal target that was presented either to the LVF or to the RVF. Both hemifield presentations included three semantic conditions: the words were either semantically associated, non-associated, or the target was a non-word. The participants began reading from the prime and then made a saccade towards the target, subsequently they judged the semantic association. Between 200 and 280 ms from the fixation onset, an occipital P2 EFRP-component differentiated between parafoveal word and non-word stimuli when the parafoveal word appeared in the RVF. The results suggest that the extraction of parafoveal information is affected by attention, which is oriented as a function of reading direction.

from Brain and Language

The menopause triggers hearing decline in healthy women

Epidemiological studies have shown that women have better high-frequency thresholds than men in virtually all age groups, and that age-related hearing decline starts after 30 in men but not until after the age of 50 in women. This coincides with the menopausal transition in most women, thus leading us to hypothesize that the menopause triggers auditory deterioration, possibly due to reduced levels of endogenous estrogens, which are known to have protective effects on the auditory system. Methods: 104 women with a mean age 51.2 at baseline, were tested with pure tone audiometry twice with an average interval of 7.5 years. The age at the final menstrual period (FMP) was reported by all women. Hearing decline at individual frequencies was calculated. Results: Women with a FMP 0-4 years ago, had a rate of high frequency hearing decline of 0.9-1.5 dB/year in the left ear, those with 5-7 years since the FMP had a corresponding rate of 1.1-1.5 dB/year in the right ear, and 8-13 years after the FMP the decline was more subtle, 0.7-1.1 dB/year in both ears. Conclusion: The menopause appears to act as a trigger of a relatively rapid age-related hearing decline in healthy women, starting in the left ear.

from Hearing Research

Lateralization of the arcuate fasciculus from childhood to adulthood and its relation to cognitive abilities in children

Abstract
The arcuate fasciculus is a major white matter tract involved in language processing that has also been repeatedly implicated in intelligence and reasoning tasks. Language in the human brain is lateralized in terms of both function and structure, and while the arcuate fasciculus reflects this asymmetry, its pattern of lateralization is poorly understood in children and adolescents. We used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and tractography to examine arcuate fasciculus lateralization in a large (n = 183) group of healthy right-handed volunteers aged 5-30 years; a subset of 68 children aged 5-13 years also underwent cognitive assessments. Fractional anisotropy and number of streamlines of the arcuate fasciculus were both significantly higher in the left hemisphere than the right hemisphere in most subjects, although some subjects (10%) were right lateralized. Age and gender effects on lateralization were not significant. Children receiving cognitive assessments were divided into three groups: a left-only group in whom only the left side of the arcuate fasciculus could be tracked, a left-lateralized group, and a right-lateralized group. Scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and NEPSY Phonological Processing task differed significantly among groups, with left-only subjects outperforming the right-lateralized group on the PPVT, and the left-lateralized children scoring significantly better than the right-lateralized group on phonological processing. In summary, DTI tractography demonstrates leftward arcuate fasciculus lateralization in children, adolescents, and young adults, and reveals a relationship between structural white matter lateralization and specific cognitive abilities in children. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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from Human Brain Mapping

Perceiving rhythm where none exists: Event-related potential (ERP) correlates of subjective accenting

Previous research suggests that our past experience of rhythmic structure in music results in a tendency for Western listeners to subjectively accent equitonal isochronous sequences. We have shown in an earlier study that the occurrence of a slightly softer tone in the 8th to 11th position of such a sequence evokes a P300 event-related potential (ERP) response of different amplitudes depending on whether the tone occurs in putatively subjectively accented or unaccented sequence positions (Brochard et al., 2003). One current theory of rhythm processing postulates that subjective accenting is the result of predictive modulations of perceptual processes by the attention system. If this is the case then ERP modulations should be observed at an earlier latency than the P300 and these should be observed in ERPs to both standard and softer tones. Such effects were not observed in our previous study. This was possibly due to the use of a linked-mastoid reference which may have obscured lateralized differences. The aim of the present study was to replicate the previous auditory P300 subjective accenting findings and to investigate the possibility that these effects are preceded by ERP changes that are indicative of rhythmic modulation of perceptual processing. Previous auditory P300 findings were replicated. In addition and consistent with current theories of rhythm processing, early brain ERP differences were observed both in standard and deviant tones from the onset of the stimulus. These left lateralized differences are consistent with a rhythmic, endogenously driven, modulation of perception that influences the conscious experience of equitonal isochronous sequences.

from Cortex

DTI Tractography of the Human Brain’s Language Pathways

from Cerebral Cortex

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) tractography has been used to detect leftward asymmetries in the arcuate fasciculus, a pathway that links temporal and inferior frontal language cortices. In this study, we more specifically define this asymmetry with respect to both anatomy and function. Twenty right-handed male subjects were scanned with DTI, and the arcuate fasciculus was reconstructed using deterministic tractography. The arcuate was divided into 2 segments with different hypothesized functions, one terminating in the posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG) and another terminating in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG). Tractography results were compared with peak activation coordinates from prior functional neuroimaging studies of phonology, lexical–semantic processing, and prosodic processing to assign putative functions to these pathways. STG terminations were strongly left lateralized and overlapped with phonological activations in the left but not the right hemisphere, suggesting that only the left hemisphere phonological cortex is directly connected with the frontal lobe via the arcuate fasciculus. MTG terminations were also strongly left lateralized, overlapping with left lateralized lexical–semantic activations. Smaller right hemisphere MTG terminations overlapped with right lateralized prosodic activations. We combine our findings with a recent model of brain language processing to explain 6 aphasia syndromes.

Ocular Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials in Response to Bone-Conducted Vibration of the Midline Forehead at Fz

from Audiology & Neuro-Otology

If a patient, who is lying supine and looking upward, is given bone-conducted vibration (BCV) of the forehead at the hairline in the midline (Fz) with a clinical reflex hammer or a powerful bone conduction vibrator, short-latency surface potentials called ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (oVEMP) can be recorded from just beneath the eyes. The early negative (excitatory) component (n10) is approximately equal in amplitude for both eyes in healthy subjects, but in patients with unilateral vestibular loss, the n10 component is significantly asymmetrical under the 2 eyes – the n10 component is small or absent under the eye on the side contralateral to the prior unilateral vestibular nerve removal, but of normal amplitude under the eye on the side contralateral to the healthy ear. The n10 component of the oVEMP response to BCV at Fz stimuli reflects vestibular and probably mainly otolithic function via crossed otolithic-ocular pathways, and so n10 asymmetry is a new way of identifying the affected side in patients with unilateral otolithic loss.