Brain Plasticity Following Hearing Loss and Restoration with Cochlear Implant


Brain plasticity is the neural mechanism by which the cerebrum adapts itself to its environment, while at the same time making it vulnerable to impoverished sensory or developmental experiences.  Like the visual system, auditory development passes through a series of sensitive periods in which circuits and connections are established and then refined by experience.  Current research is expanding our understanding of cerebral processing and organization in the deaf.  In the congenitally deaf, higher-order areas of “deaf” auditory cortex demonstrate significant crossmodal plasticity with neurons responding to visual and somatosensory stimuli.  This crucial cerebral function results in compensatory plasticity.  Not only can the remaining inputs reorganize to substitute for those lost, but this additional circuitry also confers enhanced abilities to the remaining systems.  In this presentation we will review our present understanding of the structure and function of “deaf” auditory cortex and how auditory cortex reorganizes following the initiation of hearing with a cochlear implant using psychophysical, electrophysiological, and connectional anatomy approaches.

Learning Objectives:

As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe fundamental changes in auditory cortex as a consequence of hearing loss
  2. Describe how the brain responds to the introduction of a cochlear implant
  3. Describe the similarities in cortical processing between hearing subjects and deaf subjects that have had hearing restored with a cochlear implant.