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Effects of acoustic complexity on processing sound intensity in 10- to 11-year-old children

Evidence from cortical auditory evoked potentials


  • Elizabeth Dinces MD, MS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Bronx, New York, U.S.A.
    • Department of Otorhinolarygology–Head and Neck Surgery, 3400 Bainbridge Ave, 3rd floor, Bronx, NY 10467

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  • Elyse Sussman PhD

    1. Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Bronx, New York, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, U.S.A
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  • This research was funded by the Triological Society, Career Development Award (E.D.), and the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (grant #006003, E.S.). The authors have no other funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

  • All work performed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.



The environmental complexity that sounds are presented in, as well as the stimulus presentation rate, influences how sound intensity is centrally encoded with differences between children and adults.

Study Design:

Cortical auditory evoked potential (CAEP) comparison study in children and adults examining two stimulus rates and three different stimulus contexts.


Twelve 10 and 11 year olds and 11 adults were studied in two experiments examining the CAEP to a 1-KHz, 50-ms tone. A Slow-Rate experiment at 750-ms stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) compared the CAEPs of 78 dB to 86 dB SPL in 2 complexity conditions. A Fast-Rate experiment was performed at 125 ms SOA with the same conditions plus an additional complexity condition. Repeated measures and mixed-model analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to examine the latency and amplitude of the CAEP components.


CAEP amplitudes and latencies were significantly affected by rate, intensity, and age with complexity interacting in multiple mixed-mode ANOVAs. P1 was the only CAEP component present at the Fast Rate. There were main effects of rate, age, and stimulus intensity level on the CAEP amplitudes and latencies. Maturational differences were seen in the interactions of intensity with complexity for the different CAEP components.


Complexity of the sound environment was reflected in the relative amplitude of the CAEPs evoked by sound intensity. The effect of stimulus intensity depended on the complexity of the surrounding environment. Effects of the surrounding sounds were different in children than in adults.