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The scalp-recorded brainstem response to speech: Neural origins and plasticity

Authors

  • Bharath Chandrasekaran,

    1. Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
    2. Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
    3. Communication Neural Systems Research Group, Northwestern UniversityEvanston, Illinois, USA
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  • Nina Kraus

    1. Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
    2. Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
    3. Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
    4. Department of Otolaryngology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
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  • This work was supported by Grants NIH/NIDCD RO1-01510, F32DC008052, and NSF BCS-544846 and by the Hugh Knowles Center, Northwestern University. The authors acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. We also thank Trent Nicol, Erika Skoe, and Karen Banai for providing feedback on earlier versions of this article.

Address reprint requests to: Nina Kraus, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2240 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, USA. E-mail: nkraus@northwestern.edu

Abstract

Considerable progress has been made in our understanding of the remarkable fidelity with which the human auditory brainstem represents key acoustic features of the speech signal. The brainstem response to speech can be assessed noninvasively by examining scalp-recorded evoked potentials. Morphologically, two main components of the scalp-recorded brainstem response can be differentiated, a transient onset response and a sustained frequency-following response (FFR). Together, these two components are capable of conveying important segmental and suprasegmental information inherent in the typical speech syllable. Here we examine the putative neural sources of the scalp-recorded brainstem response and review recent evidence that demonstrates that the brainstem response to speech is dynamic in nature and malleable by experience. Finally, we propose a putative mechanism for experience-dependent plasticity at the level of the brainstem.

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