Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Neural Correlates of Reading Ability and Their Plasticity in Response to Auditory Training
by Hornickel, Jane Marie, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2012, 307; 3527746
Abstract (Summary)

Reading is a complex communication process that relies on visual perception of letters and auditory translation of sounds. Children with reading disorders are known to have difficulty with auditory perception, and these deficits may contribute to the well-documented impairments in phonological awareness, auditory memory, speech sound discrimination, and auditory attention in this population. First, five studies were undertaken to better understand the neurological correlates of auditory processing impairments in children with reading disabilities. In the present studies, auditory brainstem responses to stop-consonant syllables were collected from children with varying reading ability. Particular measures of the auditory brainstem response to speech were found to relate to reading ability and be impaired in poor readers relative to good: the timing of the response, the representation of stimulus harmonics, the ability to enhance stimulus representations with repetition, and the consistency of the response from trial to trial. These factors uniquely predicted reading ability, even when phonological awareness skill and working memory were taken into account. The auditory brainstem response to speech is known to be malleable in response to active experience with sound, although it was found to be consistent with a lack of targeted intervention. In order to assess the impact of auditory training on reading ability and auditory neurophysiology, a study was conducted of children with reading disorders utilizing assistive listening devices in their classrooms for one year. The auditory brainstem response to speech became more consistent after using the assistive listening device, a change that was not seen for other children with reading disorders primarily in the same schools who did not wear the device. Those children with the most deficient neural encoding before training showed the greatest gains after training, even resembling typically-developing children. These studies suggest that auditory brainstem responses to speech may provide a unique, neural marker of reading ability, and that auditory training can help remediate neural deficits in children with reading disorders. The contribution of these results to the field of learning disabilities can lead to enhancements in diagnostic practices and reading remediation by focusing on deficits in auditory neural function.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kraus, Nina
Commitee: Bradlow, Ann R., Zecker, Steven G.
School: Northwestern University
Department: Communication Sciences and Disorders
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Audiology, Neurosciences, Special education
Keywords: Auditory training, Children, Electrophysiology, Neural plasticity, Reading ability, Reading disorders, Speech
Publication Number: 3527746
ISBN: 978-1-267-62197-9
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