A common finding in developmental neurobiology is that stimulation must be delivered to a sensory system within a narrow window of time (a sensitive period) during development in order for that sensory system to develop normally. Experiments with congenitally deaf children have allowed us to establish the existence and time limits of a sensitive period for the development of central auditory pathways in humans. Using the latency of cortical auditory evoked potentials (CAEPs) as a measure we have found that central auditory pathways are maximally plastic for a period of about 3.5 years. If the stimulation is delivered within that period CAEP latencies reach age-normal values within 3-6 months after stimulation. However, if stimulation is withheld for more than 7 years, CAEP latencies decrease significantly over a period of approximately 1 month following the onset of stimulation. They then remain constant or change very slowly over months or years. The lack of development of the central auditory system in congenitally deaf children implanted after 7 years is correlated with relatively poor development of speech and language skills [Geers, this vol, pp 50-65]. Animal models suggest that the primary auditory cortex may be functionally decoupled from higher order auditory cortex due to restricted development of inter- and intracortical connections in late-implanted children [Kral and Tillein, this vol, pp 89-108]. Another aspect of plasticity that works against late-implanted children is the reorganization of higher order cortex by other sensory modalities (e.g. vision). The hypothesis of decoupling of primary auditory cortex from higher order auditory cortex in children deprived of sound for a long time may explain the speech perception and oral language learning difficulties of children who receive an implant after the end of the sensitive period.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||23|
|Journal||Advances in Oto-Rhino-Laryngology|
|Publication status||Published - 2006|
ASJC Scopus subject areas