The Cerebellum

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 404–418 | Cite as

An Electrophysiological Study of Cognitive and Emotion Processing in Type I Chiari Malformation

  • James R. HoustonEmail author
  • Michelle L. Hughes
  • Mei-Ching Lien
  • Bryn A. Martin
  • Francis Loth
  • Mark G. Luciano
  • Sarel Vorster
  • Philip A. Allen
Original Paper


Type I Chiari malformation (CMI) is a neurological condition in which the cerebellar tonsils descend into the cervical spinal subarachnoid space resulting in cervico-medullary compression. Early case-control investigations have indicated cognitive deficits in the areas of attention, memory, processing speed, and visuospatial function. The present study further examined cognitive and emotional processing deficits associated with CMI using a dual-task paradigm. Nineteen CMI patients were recruited during pre-surgical consultation and 19 matched control participants identified emotional expressions in separate single and asynchronous dual-task designs. To extend earlier behavioral studies of cognitive effects in CMI, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in the dual-task design. Though response times were slower for CMI patients across the two tasks, behavioral and ERP analyses indicated that patients did not differ from matched controls in the ability to allocate attentional resources between the two tasks. P1 ERP component analyses provided no indication of an emotional arousal deficit in our CMI sample while P3 ERP component analyses suggested a CMI-related deficit in emotional regulation. P3 analysis also yielded evidence for a frontalization of neurophysiological activity in CMI patients. Pain and related depression and anxiety factors accounted for CMI deficits in single-task, but not dual-task, response times. Results are consistent with a dysfunctional fronto-parietal attentional network resulting from either the indirect effects of chronic pain or the direct effects of CMI pathophysiology stemming from cervico-medullary compression.


Chiari malformation Divided attention Emotion processing Affective arousal Emotion regulation Chronic pain Cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Houston
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michelle L. Hughes
    • 1
  • Mei-Ching Lien
    • 2
  • Bryn A. Martin
    • 3
  • Francis Loth
    • 4
  • Mark G. Luciano
    • 5
  • Sarel Vorster
    • 6
  • Philip A. Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.Conquer Chiari Research Center, Department of PsychologyThe University of AkronAkronUSA
  2. 2.School of Psychological ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological EngineeringUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  4. 4.Conquer Chiari Research Center, Department of Mechanical EngineeringThe University of AkronAkronUSA
  5. 5.Department of NeurosurgeryJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Department of NeurosurgeryCleveland ClinicClevelandUSA

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