Neuroelectrical imaging investigation of cortical activity during listening to music in prelingually deaf children with cochlear implants

Marsella P, Scorpecci A, Vecchiato G, Maglione A, Colosimo A, Babiloni F; International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 78 (5), 737-43 (May 2014)

OBJECTIVE To date, no objective measure of the pleasantness of music perception by children with cochlear implants has been reported. The EEG alpha asymmetries of pre-frontal cortex activation are known to relate to emotional/affective engagement in a perceived stimulus. More specifically, according to the'withdrawal/approach'model, an unbalanced de-synchronization of the alpha activity in the left prefrontal cortex has been associated with a positive affective state/approach toward a stimulus, and an unbalanced de-synchronization of the same activity in the right prefrontal cortex with a negative affective state/withdrawal from a stimulus. In the present study, High-Resolution EEG with Source Reconstruction was used to compare the music-induced alpha asymmetries of the prefrontal cortex in a group of prelingually deaf implanted children and in a control group of normal-hearing children.



METHODS Six normal-hearing and six age-matched deaf children using a unilateral cochlear implants underwent High-Resolution EEG recordings as they were listening to a musical cartoon. Musical stimuli were delivered in three versions: Normal, Distort (reverse audio flow) and Mute. The EEG alpha rhythm asymmetry was analyzed: Power Spectral Density was calculated for each Region of Interest, together with a right-left imbalance index. A map of cortical activation was then reconstructed on a realistic cortical model.

RESULTS Asymmetries of EEG alpha rhythm in the prefrontal cortices were observed in both groups. In the normal-hearing children, the asymmetries were consistent with the withdrawal/approach model, whereas in cochlear implant users they were not. Moreover, in implanted children a different pattern of alpha asymmetries in extrafrontal cortical areas was noticed as compared to normal-hearing subjects.

CONCLUSIONS The peculiar pattern of alpha asymmetries in implanted children's prefrontal cortex in response to musical stimuli suggests an inability by these subjects to discriminate normal from dissonant music and to appreciate the pleasantness of normal music. High-Resolution EEG may prove to be a promising tool for objectively measuring prefrontal cortex alpha asymmetries in child cochlear implant users.