Blog Archives

Evolution of non-speech sound memory in postlingual deafness: implications for cochlear implant rehabilitation

Neurofunctionalpatterns assessed beforeor after cochlear implantation (CI) areinformativemarkers of implantation outcome. Because phonological memory reorganization in post-lingual deafness is predictive of the outcome, we investigated, using a cross-sectional approach, whether memory of non-speech sounds (NSS) produced by animals or objects(i.e non-human sounds) isalso reorganized, and how this relates to speech perception after CI. We used an fMRI auditory imagery task in which sounds were evoked by pictures of noisy items for post-lingual deaf candidates for CI and for normal-hearing subjects. When deaf subjects imagined sounds, the left inferior frontal gyrus, the right posterior temporal gyrus and the right amygdala were less activated compared to controls. Activity levels in these regions decreased with duration of auditory deprivation, indicating declining NSS representations. Whole brain correlations with duration of auditory deprivation and with speech scores after CI showed an activity decline in dorsal, fronto-parietal, cortical regions, and an activity increase in ventral cortical regions, the right anterior temporal pole and the hippocampalgyrus. Both dorsal and ventral reorganizations predicted poor speech perception outcome after CI. These results suggest that post-CI speech perception relies, at least partially, on the integrity of a neural system used for processing NSS that is based on audio-visual and articulatorymapping processes. When this neural system is reorganized, post-lingual deaf subjects resort to inefficient semantic-and memory-based strategies. These results complement those of other studies on speech processing, suggesting that both speech and NSS representations need to be maintained during deafness to ensure the success of CI.

from Neuropsychologia

Mechanisms Underlying Input-Specific Expression of Endocannabinoid-Mediated Synaptic Plasticity in the Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus

A hallmark of brain organization is the integration of primary and modulatory pathways by principal neurons. Primary sensory inputs are usually not plastic, while modulatory inputs converging to the same principal neuron can be plastic. However, the mechanisms determining this input specific expression of synaptic plasticity remain unknown. We investigated this problem in the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), where principal cells integrate primary auditory nerve input with plastic, parallel fiber input. Our previous DCN studies have shown that parallel fiber inputs exhibit short- and long-term plasticities mediated by endocannabinoid signaling. Here we show that auditory nerve inputs to principal cells do not show short- or long-term endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic plasticity. Electrophysiological and electron microscopy studies indicate that input specificity arises from selective expression of presynaptic cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in parallel fiber terminals, but not in auditory nerve terminals. However, pairing of parallel fiber activity with auditory nerve activity elicits plasticity in parallel fiber inputs, thus suggesting a role for synaptic plasticity in multisensory integration.

from Hearing Research

Auditory-Motor Expertise Alters “Speech Selectivity” in Professional Musicians and Actors

Several perisylvian brain regions show preferential activation for spoken language above and beyond other complex sounds. These “speech-selective” effects might be driven by regions’ intrinsic biases for processing the acoustical or informational properties of speech. Alternatively, such speech selectivity might emerge through extensive experience in perceiving and producing speech sounds. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study disambiguated such audiomotor expertise from speech selectivity by comparing activation for listening to speech and music in female professional violinists and actors. Audiomotor expertise effects were identified in several right and left superior temporal regions that responded to speech in all participants and music in violinists more than actresses. Regions associated with the acoustic/information content of speech were identified along the entire length of the superior temporal sulci bilaterally where activation was greater for speech than music in all participants. Finally, an effect of performing arts training was identified in bilateral premotor regions commonly activated by finger and mouth movements as well as in right hemisphere “language regions.” These results distinguish the seemingly speech-specific neural responses that can be abolished and even reversed by long-term audiomotor experience.

from Cerebral Cortex

Role of cerebellum in fine speech control in childhood: Persistent dysarthria after surgical treatment for posterior fossa tumour

Dysarthria following surgical resection of childhood posterior fossa tumour (PFT) is most commonly documented in a select group of participants with mutism in the acute recovery phase, thus limiting knowledge of post-operative prognosis for this population of children as a whole. Here we report on the speech characteristics of 13 cases seen long-term after surgical treatment for childhood PFT, unselected for the presence of post-operative mutism (mean time post-surgery = 6y10 m, range 1;4–12;6 years, two had post-operative mutism), and examine factors affecting outcome. Twenty-six age- and sex- matched healthy controls were recruited for comparison. Participants in both groups had speech assessments using detailed perceptual and acoustic methods. Over two-thirds of the group (69%) with removal of PFT had a profile of typically mild dysarthria. Prominent speech deficits included consonant imprecision, reduced rate, monopitch and monoloudness. We conclude that speech deficits may persist even up to 10 years post-surgery in participants who have not shown mutism in the acute phase. Of cases with unilateral lesions, poorer outcomes were associated with right cerebellar tumours compared to left, consistent with the notion based on adult data that speech is controlled by reciprocal right cerebellar/left frontal interactions. These results confirm the important role of the cerebellum in the control of fine speech movements in children.

from Brain and Language

Differential language expertise related to white matter architecture in regions subserving sensory-motor coupling, articulation, and interhemispheric transfer

The technique of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has been used to investigate alterations in white matter architecture following long-term training and expertise. Professional simultaneous interpreters (SI) provide an ideal model for the investigation of training-induced plasticity due to the high demands placed on sound to motor mapping mechanisms, which are vital for executing fast interpretations. In line with our hypothesis, we found clusters with decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the SI group in brain regions previously shown to support sensory-motor coupling mechanisms and speech articulation (cluster extent family-wise error corrected, P < 0.01). Furthermore, we found an altered white matter architecture indicated by lower FA values in the SI group in the most anterior and posterior parts of the corpus callosum. Our results suggest that language expertise is accompanied by plastic adaptations in regions strongly involved in motor aspects of speech and in interhemispheric information transfer. These results have implications for our understanding of language expertise in relation to white matter adaptations. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

from Human Brain Mapping

Tinnitus: Models and mechanisms

Over the past decade, there has been a burgeoning of scientific interest in the neurobiological origins of tinnitus. During this period, numerous behavioral and physiological animal models have been developed which have yielded major clues concerning the likely neural correlates of acute and chronic forms of tinnitus and the processes leading to their induction. The data increasingly converge on the view that tinnitus is a systemic problem stemming from imbalances in the excitatory and inhibitory inputs to auditory neurons. Such changes occur at multiple levels of the auditory system and involve a combination of interacting phenomena that are triggered by loss of normal input from the inner ear. This loss sets in motion a number of plastic readjustments in the central auditory system and sometimes beyond the auditory system that culminate in the induction of aberrant states of activation that include hyperactivity, bursting discharges and increases in neural synchrony. This article will review was has been learned about the biological origins of these alterations, summarize where they occur and examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are most likely to underlie them.

from Hearing Research

Reorganization of functional connectivity as a correlate of cognitive recovery in acquired brain injury

Cognitive processes require a functional interaction between specialized multiple, local and remote brain regions. Although these interactions can be strongly altered by an acquired brain injury, brain plasticity allows network reorganization to be principally responsible for recovery. The present work evaluates the impact of brain injury on functional connectivity patterns. Networks were calculated from resting-state magnetoencephalographic recordings from 15 brain injured patients and 14 healthy controls by means of wavelet coherence in standard frequency bands. We compared the parameters defining the network, such as number and strength of interactions as well as their topology, in controls and patients for two conditions: following a traumatic brain injury and after a rehabilitation treatment. A loss of delta- and theta-based connectivity and conversely an increase in alpha- and beta-band-based connectivity were found. Furthermore, connectivity parameters approached controls in all frequency bands, especially in slow-wave bands. A correlation between network reorganization and cognitive recovery was found: the reduction of delta-band-based connections and the increment of those based on alpha band correlated with Verbal Fluency scores, as well as Perceptual Organization and Working Memory Indexes, respectively. Additionally, changes in connectivity values based on theta and beta bands correlated with the Patient Competency Rating Scale. The current study provides new evidence of the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying neuronal plasticity processes after brain injury, and suggests that these changes are related with observed changes at the behavioural level.

from Brain

ERP evidence of hemispheric independence in visual word recognition

This study examined the capability of the left hemisphere (LH) and the right hemisphere (RH) to perform a visual recognition task independently as formulated by the Direct Access Model (Fernandino, Iacoboni, & Zaidel, 2007). Healthy native Hebrew speakers were asked to categorize nouns and non-words (created from nouns by transposing two middle letters) into man-made and natural categories while their performance and ERPs were recorded. The stimuli were presented parafoveally to the right and left visual fields. As predicted by the Direct Access Model, ERP data showed that both the left hemisphere and right hemisphere were able to differentiate between words and non-words as early as 170 ms post-stimulus; these results were significant only for the contralaterally presented stimuli. The N1 component, which is considered to reflect orthographic processing, was larger in both hemispheres in response to the contralateral than the ipsilateral presented stimuli. This finding provides evidence for the RH capability to access higher level lexical information at the early stages of visual word recognition, thus lending weight to arguments for the relatively independent nature of this process.

from Brain and Language

Rebalancing the commissural system: Mechanisms of vestibular compensation

Vestibular compensation after unilateral vestibular loss is a complex, multi-factored process involving synaptic and neuronal plasticity in many areas of the brain, and it is a challenge to identify the key sites of plasticity that determine the rate and extent of behavioural recovery. Experimental evidence strongly implicates the vestibular commissural inhibitory system which links the brainstem vestibular nuclei of the two sides, both in causing the initial severe oculomotor and postural symptoms of vestibular deafferentation, and in the subsequent recovery that takes place in the early stages of compensation. Of particular interest are changes in GABAergic neurotransmission within the commissural system, and the possibility that histaminergic drugs as well as stress steroids and neurosteroids that can modulate compensation, may do so at least in part by their effects on commissural inhibition. A fuller understanding of the role of the commissural system in compensation and the effects of GABAergic neuromodulators is likely to reveal the mechanisms of action of histamine in the vestibular system and the interactions between stress, anxiety and vestibular dysfunction.

from the Journal of Vestibular Research

Enhanced reactivity to visual stimuli in deaf individuals

These findings reveal that enhanced reactivity to visual stimuli in the deaf cannot be explained only by faster orienting of visual attention and can emerge for central as well as peripheral targets. Moreover, the persisting advantage for peripheral locations in the deaf, observed here under distributed attention, suggests that this spatially-selective effect could result from reorganised sensory processing rather than different attentional gradients.

from Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience

Home-based personalized cognitive training in MS patients: A study of adherence and cognitive performance

Conclusions: The appreciable rates of adherence and cognitive improvements observed indicate that personalized cognitive training is a practical and valuable tool to improve cognitive skills and encourage neuronal plasticity in patients with MS.

from Neurorehabilitation

Speech and oral motor profile after childhood hemispherectomy

Hemispherectomy (disconnection or removal of an entire cerebral hemisphere) is a rare surgical procedure used for the relief of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. After hemispherectomy, contralateral hemiplegia persists whereas gross expressive and receptive language functions can be remarkably spared. Motor speech deficits have rarely been examined systematically, thus limiting the accuracy of postoperative prognosis. We describe the speech profiles of hemispherectomized participants characterizing their intelligibility, articulation, phonological speech errors, dysarthric features, and execution and sequencing of orofacial speech and non-speech movements. Thirteen participants who had undergone hemispherectomy (six left, seven right; nine with congenital, four with acquired hemiplegia; operated between four months and 13 years) were investigated. Results showed that all participants were intelligible but showed a mild dysarthric profile characterized by neuromuscular asymmetry and reduced quality and coordination of movements, features that are characteristic of adult-onset unilateral upper motor neuron dysarthria, flaccid-ataxic variant. In addition, one left and four right hemispherectomy cases presented with impaired production of speech and non-speech sequences. No participant showed evidence of verbal or oral dyspraxia. It is concluded that mild dysarthria is persistent after left or right hemispherectomy, irrespective of age at onset of hemiplegia. These results indicate incomplete functional re-organization for the control of fine speech motor movements throughout childhood, and provide no evidence of hemispheric differences.

from Brain and Language

Speech and oral motor profile after childhood hemispherectomy

Hemispherectomy (disconnection or removal of an entire cerebral hemisphere) is a rare surgical procedure used for the relief of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. After hemispherectomy, contralateral hemiplegia persists whereas gross expressive and receptive language functions can be remarkably spared. Motor speech deficits have rarely been examined systematically, thus limiting the accuracy of postoperative prognosis. We describe the speech profiles of hemispherectomized participants characterizing their intelligibility, articulation, phonological speech errors, dysarthric features, and execution and sequencing of orofacial speech and non-speech movements. Thirteen participants who had undergone hemispherectomy (six left, seven right; nine with congenital, four with acquired hemiplegia; operated between four months and 13 years) were investigated. Results showed that all participants were intelligible but showed a mild dysarthric profile characterized by neuromuscular asymmetry and reduced quality and coordination of movements, features that are characteristic of adult-onset unilateral upper motor neuron dysarthria, flaccid-ataxic variant. In addition, one left and four right hemispherectomy cases presented with impaired production of speech and non-speech sequences. No participant showed evidence of verbal or oral dyspraxia. It is concluded that mild dysarthria is persistent after left or right hemispherectomy, irrespective of age at onset of hemiplegia. These results indicate incomplete functional re-organization for the control of fine speech motor movements throughout childhood, and provide no evidence of hemispheric differences.

from Brain and Language

Listening to tailor-made notched music reduces tinnitus loudness and tinnitus-related auditory cortex activity

Maladaptive auditory cortex reorganization may contribute to the generation and maintenance of tinnitus. Because cortical organization can be modified by behavioral training, we attempted to reduce tinnitus loudness by exposing chronic tinnitus patients to self-chosen, enjoyable music, which was modified (“notched”) to contain no energy in the frequency range surrounding the individual tinnitus frequency. After 12 months of regular listening, the target patient group (n = 8) showed significantly reduced subjective tinnitus loudness and concomitantly exhibited reduced evoked activity in auditory cortex areas corresponding to the tinnitus frequency compared to patients who had received an analogous placebo notched music treatment (n = 8). These findings indicate that tinnitus loudness can be significantly diminished by an enjoyable, low-cost, custom-tailored notched music treatment, potentially via reversing maladaptive auditory cortex reorganization.

from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Simultaneous interpreters as a model for neuronal adaptation in the domain of language processing

In the context of language processing, proficiency and age of acquisition have reliably been shown to have a strong influence on the functional and structural architecture of the human brain. The aim of the present EEG study was to examine the impact of language training as experienced by simultaneous interpreters (SI) on auditory word processing and to disentangle its influence from that of proficiency and age of acquisition. Eleven native German SI and controls matched in L2 proficiency and age of acquisition were asked to judge whether auditory presented disyllabic noun pairs both within and across the German (L1) and English (L2) languages were either semantically congruent or incongruent. We revealed enlarged N400 responses in SI while they detected incongruent trials both within the native (L1) and non-native (L2) language and also while they performed the task in the opposite direction as specifically trained (L1 to L2). These enlarged N400 responses in SI suggest a training-induced altered sensitivity to semantic processing within and across L1 and L2. The enlarged N400 responses we revealed in SI to congruent noun pairs during the German–English condition (L1 to L2) may indicate that SI could not benefit from an L1 prime when the target was a L2 word, suggesting additional processing resulting from long-term backwards (L2 to L1) training.

from Brain Research