Abstract

The concept of auditory restoration after cochlear implant (CI) in prelingual deafness is well described by a synaptic network model, whose development depends on sensory experience. The aim of this work was to study the associative networks activated by the CI in a population of prelingually deaf patients. In particular, the impact of age at time of first CI fitting and duration of CI use was evaluated. Twenty patients were tested and divided into three groups: early implanted and lengthy CI use (group A); late implanted and lengthy CI use (group B); late implanted and short CI use (group C). Each patient group was compared with a normal hearing age matched control group. All subjects underwent to auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) registration. ERP latencies and their cortical sources were investigated. Cortical source analysis was performed using LORETA (Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography) software. P300 latencies were significantly longer in patients than in controls. The amount of cortical activation was found to be significantly directly correlated with duration of implant use and significantly correlated inversely with age at implant. When comparing patients and controls, comparable cortical activation was only found in A patient group, and to a lesser extent in group B, while significantly lower activation was found in patient group C in the frontal and cingulate areas. CI adds a sensory modality in deafness patients, i.e. the auditory one. This involves areas implicated in sensory and cognitive functions, and needs some time to form. The duration of CI use is crucial: our results demonstrate the importance of long term use of the device in addition to an early time of implant.