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Abstract

Deaf children with cochlear implants (CIs) represent an intriguing opportunity to study neurocognitive plasticity and reorganization when sound is introduced following a period of auditory deprivation early in development. Although it is common to consider deafness as affecting hearing alone, it may be the case that auditory deprivation leads to more global changes in neurocognitive function. In this paper, we investigate implicit sequence learning abilities in deaf children with CIs using a novel task that measured learning through improvement to immediate serial recall for statistically consistent visual sequences. The results demonstrated two key findings. First, the deaf children with CIs showed disturbances in their visual sequence learning abilities relative to the typically developing normal-hearing children. Second, sequence learning was significantly correlated with a standardized measure of language outcome in the CI children. These findings suggest that a period of auditory deprivation has secondary effects related to general sequencing deficits, and that disturbances in sequence learning may at least partially explain why some deaf children still struggle with language following cochlear implantation.