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Morphological and Functional Development of the Auditory Nervous System

Chapter
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 42)

Abstract

There are three essential aspects to consider in the description of human auditory maturation, namely, the structural, the functional and the behavioral. Structural aspects were studied by histological methods, and in living persons by neuroimaging methods and auditory evoked potentials or magnetic fields.

Discrimination, as a behavioral process, is the ability to recognize the differences between auditory stimuli, and involves two subsystems: Analysis of the physical parameters of the stimulus is performed by the brainstem. Attention to and awareness of the stimulus is mediated by the RAS (and later thalamic) input into the layer I system. Discriminative ability and both subsystems are operational in the months before and after term birth. Perception and cortical connections begin to develop slowly in the second half of the first year of life, and continue into late childhood/teen/adult years. This phase is characterized by maturation of thalmocortical input. Maturational time constants increase stepwise from the periphery (4 weeks), via brainstem (6 month) to the thalamo-cortical system (6 years), and correspond well with behavioral indices of sensory discrimination and perception. Three pathways to the auditory cortex can be distinguished and appear to mature along very different timelines. The ones that mature early, i.e., the reticular activating system pathway and the extralemniscal, non-tonotopically organized, pathway, are generally adult-like at the end of the maturation of the neural discrimination system, i.e., by 1.5–2 years of age. The lemniscal, tonotopically-organized, pathway appears the slowest to mature, well into the late teens or early twenties, and correlates with the maturation of the perceptual system.

Keywords

Fractional Anisotropy Brain Stem Auditory Cortex Cochlear Implant Inferior Colliculus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, and by the Campbell McLaurin Chair for Hearing Deficiencies.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.House Ear InstituteLos AngelesUSA

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