Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Under conditions of profound sensory deprivation, the brain has the propensity to reorganize. For example, intact sensory modalities often recruit deficient modalities' cortices for neural processing. This process is known as cross-modal reorganization and has been shown in congenitally and profoundly deaf patients. However, much less is known about cross-modal cortical reorganization in persons with less severe cases of age-related hearing loss (ARHL), even though such cases are far more common. Thus, we investigated cross-modal reorganization between the auditory and somatosensory modalities in older adults with normal hearing (NH) and mild-moderate ARHL in response to vibrotactile stimulation using high density electroencephalography (EEG). Results showed activation of the somatosensory cortices in adults with NH as well as those with hearing loss (HL). However, adults with mild-moderate ARHL also showed robust activation of auditory cortical regions in response to somatosensory stimulation. Neurophysiologic data exhibited significant correlations with speech perception in noise outcomes suggesting that the degree of cross-modal reorganization may be associated with functional performance. Our study presents the first evidence of somatosensory cross-modal reorganization of the auditory cortex in adults with early-stage, mild-moderate ARHL. Our findings suggest that even mild levels of ARHL associated with communication difficulty result in fundamental cortical changes.
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Cardon, Garrett and Sharma, Anu, "Somatosensory Cross-Modal Reorganization in Adults With Age-Related, Early-Stage Hearing Loss." (2018). Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Faculty Contributions. 6.