Age-related changes in transient and oscillatory brain responses to auditory stimulation during early adolescence


Address for correspondence: Catherine Poulsen, Electrical Geodesic, Inc., 1600 Millrace Dr. Suite 307, Eugene, OR 97403, USA; e-mail: or Tomáš Paus, Brain & Body Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK; e-mail:


Maturational changes in the capacity to process quickly the temporal envelope of sound have been linked to language abilities in typically developing individuals. As part of a longitudinal study of brain maturation and cognitive development during adolescence, we employed dense-array EEG and spatiotemporal source analysis to characterize maturational changes in the timing of brain responses to temporal variations in sound. We found significant changes in the brain responses compared longitudinally at two time points in early adolescence, namely 10 years (65 subjects) and 11.5 years (60 of the 65 subjects), as well as large differences between adults, studied with the same protocol (Poulsen, Picton & Paus, 2007), and the children at 10 and 11.5 years of age. The transient auditory evoked potential to tone onset showed decreases in the latency of vertex and T-complex components, and a highly significant increase in the amplitude of the N1 wave with increasing age. The auditory steady state response to a 40-Hz frequency-modulated tone increased in amplitude with increasing age. The peak frequency of the envelope-following response to sweeps of amplitude-modulated white noise also increased significantly with increasing age. These results indicate persistent maturation of the cortical mechanisms for auditory processing from childhood into middle adulthood.