Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 133-143

First online:

Auditory Cortical Activity During Cochlear Implant-Mediated Perception of Spoken Language, Melody, and Rhythm

  • Charles J. LimbAffiliated withNIDCD/NIH, Language SectionDepartment of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins HospitalPeabody Institute of Music, Johns Hopkins University Email author 
  • , Anne T. MolloyAffiliated withNIDCD/NIH, Language Section
  • , Patpong JiradejvongAffiliated withDepartment of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • , Allen R. BraunAffiliated withNIDCD/NIH, Language Section


Despite the significant advances in language perception for cochlear implant (CI) recipients, music perception continues to be a major challenge for implant-mediated listening. Our understanding of the neural mechanisms that underlie successful implant listening remains limited. To our knowledge, this study represents the first neuroimaging investigation of music perception in CI users, with the hypothesis that CI subjects would demonstrate greater auditory cortical activation than normal hearing controls. H2 15O positron emission tomography (PET) was used here to assess auditory cortical activation patterns in ten postlingually deafened CI patients and ten normal hearing control subjects. Subjects were presented with language, melody, and rhythm tasks during scanning. Our results show significant auditory cortical activation in implant subjects in comparison to control subjects for language, melody, and rhythm. The greatest activity in CI users compared to controls was seen for language tasks, which is thought to reflect both implant and neural specializations for language processing. For musical stimuli, PET scanning revealed significantly greater activation during rhythm perception in CI subjects (compared to control subjects), and the least activation during melody perception, which was the most difficult task for CI users. These results may suggest a possible relationship between auditory performance and degree of auditory cortical activation in implant recipients that deserves further study.


music PET neuroimaging cochlear implant melody rhythm language