Psychophysical measures of central auditory dysfunction in multiple sclerosis: Neurophysiological and neuroanatomical correlates

Talma Hendler, Nancy K. Squires, David S. Emmerich

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49 Scopus citations


Central auditory function was assessed in 15 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) to determine whether the demye-linating lesions resulted in disruption of temporal processing. Auditory evoked potential (AEP) recordings included all three latency regions: Auditory brain stem responses (ABRs), midlatency responses (MLRs), and long-latency responses (LLRs). Two psychophysical tasks thought to involve temporal processing were used: a monaural-processing task (gap-detection) and a binaural-processing task (masking level difference; MLD). Further, AEP abnormalities and psychophysical performance deficits were related to lesion location, based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Reduced MLDs were seen in six MS subjects. Abnormal MLDs were always accompanied by abnormal ABRs and MLRs, and compared to subjects with normal MLDs, the subjects with abnormal MLDs were more likely to have bilateral abnormalities in the AEPs. Further, MLR indices of abnormal binaural interaction appeared to be specifically related to the psychophysical measure of binaural processing. The MRI data of these patients indicated widespread involvement of the auditory pathway. MS subjects with abnormal MRI signals restricted to levels caudal to the lateral lemniscus did not have abnormal MLDs. Gap-detection thresholds were more resistant to the effects of the demyelinating lesions; only two subjects had abnormal gap-detection thresholds. These subjects had extensive AEP abnormalities (bilaterally, in all three latency regions). The gap-detection thresholds were most specifically related to abnormalities of the LLRs. In addition, the subjects with elevated gap-detection thresholds were the only ones with a prolonged interval between the ABRs and MLRs. Thus, efficient neural conduction between the upper brain stem and auditory cortex appears to be crucial for normal monaural temporal processing. The results indicate that demyelinating lesions can cause deficits in temporal processing in the central auditory pathway. However, auditory temporal processing is not a unitary phenomenon since abnormalities at different levels of the auditory system disrupt different types of temporal processing. Finally, abnormal psychophysical performance was not seen in all subjects with AEP and MRI evidence of involvement of the auditory pathway; rather, these psychophysical measures appeared to be sensitive to disruption only in specific portions of the auditory system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-416
Number of pages14
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes


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