Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 431–441 | Cite as

Learning impaired children exhibit timing deficits and training-related improvements in auditory cortical responses to speech in noise

  • Catherine M. WarrierEmail author
  • Krista L. Johnson
  • Erin A. Hayes
  • Trent Nicol
  • Nina Kraus
Research Article


The physiological mechanisms that contribute to abnormal encoding of speech in children with learning problems are yet to be well understood. Furthermore, speech perception problems appear to be particularly exacerbated by background noise in this population. This study compared speech-evoked cortical responses recorded in a noisy background to those recorded in quiet in normal children (NL) and children with learning problems (LP). Timing differences between responses recorded in quiet and in background noise were assessed by cross-correlating the responses with each other. Overall response magnitude was measured with root-mean-square (RMS) amplitude. Cross-correlation scores indicated that 23% of LP children exhibited cortical neural timing abnormalities such that their neurophysiological representation of speech sounds became distorted in the presence of background noise. The latency of the N2 response in noise was isolated as being the root of this distortion. RMS amplitudes in these children did not differ from NL children, indicating that this result was not due to a difference in response magnitude. LP children who participated in a commercial auditory training program and exhibited improved cortical timing also showed improvements in phonological perception. Consequently, auditory pathway timing deficits can be objectively observed in LP children, and auditory training can diminish these deficits.


Auditory evoked potentials Cross-correlation Learning disorders Neural timing Speech perception Auditory training 



We would like to thank the children and their families for participating in this study. This work was supported by National Institute of Health Grant R01DC01510.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine M. Warrier
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Krista L. Johnson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Erin A. Hayes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Trent Nicol
    • 1
    • 3
  • Nina Kraus
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Auditory Neuroscience LaboratoryNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for NeuroscienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Communication SciencesNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Neurobiology and PhysiologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  5. 5.Department of OtolaryngologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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