Research Reports - Auditory biological marker of concussion in children

Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 22;6:39009. doi: 10.1038/srep39009.

Kraus N(1,)(2,)(3,)(4), Thompson EC(1,)(2), Krizman J(1,)(2), Cook K(5,)(6),
White-Schwoch T(1,)(2), LaBella CR(5,)(6).

Concussions carry devastating potential for cognitive, neurologic, and
socio-emotional disease, but no objective test reliably identifies a concussion
and its severity. A variety of neurological insults compromise sound processing,
particularly in complex listening environments that place high demands on brain
processing. The frequency-following response captures the high computational
demands of sound processing with extreme granularity and reliably reveals
individual differences. We hypothesize that concussions disrupt these auditory
processes, and that the frequency-following response indicates concussion
occurrence and severity. Specifically, we hypothesize that concussions disrupt
the processing of the fundamental frequency, a key acoustic cue for identifying
and tracking sounds and talkers, and, consequently, understanding speech in
noise. Here we show that children who sustained a concussion exhibit a signature
neural profile. They have worse representation of the fundamental frequency, and
smaller and more sluggish neural responses. Neurophysiological responses to the
fundamental frequency partially recover to control levels as concussion symptoms
abate, suggesting a gain in biological processing following partial recovery.
Neural processing of sound correctly identifies 90% of concussion cases and
clears 95% of control cases, suggesting this approach has practical potential as
a scalable biological marker for sports-related concussion and other types of
mild traumatic brain injuries. 

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