Brain structure correlates with auditory function in children diagnosed with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder.
INTRODUCTION: Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD) is a term for a collection of test results which indicate disruption of the auditory signal at some point along the neural pathway. This results in a spectrum of functional outcomes, ranging from reasonably normal hearing to profound hearing loss. This study assessed brain structure changes and behavioral correlates in children diagnosed with ANSD. METHODS: Seventeen children who had previously been diagnosed with ANSD were recruited to the study and underwent a battery of behavioral measures of hearing, language, and communication, along with structural MR imaging. Analysis of cortical thickness of temporal lobe structures was carried out using FreeSurfer. Tract-based spatial statistics were performed on standard diffusion parameters of fractional anisotropy and diffusivity metrics. The control group comprised imaging data taken from a library of MRI scans from neurologically normal children. Control images were matched as closely as possible to the ANSD group for age and sex. RESULTS: Reductions in right temporal lobe cortical thickness were observed in children with ANSD compared to controls. Increases in medial diffusivity in areas including the corpus callosum and in the right occipital white matter were also seen in the group with ANSD compared to controls. Speech perception abilities, both in quiet and in noise, were correlated with cortical thickness measurements for several temporal lobe structures in children with ANSD, and relationships were also seen between diffusion metrics and measures of auditory function. CONCLUSION: This study shows that children with ANSD have structural brain differences compared to healthy controls. It also demonstrates associations between brain structure and behavioral hearing abilities in children diagnosed with ANSD. These results show that there is a potential for structural imaging to be used as a biomarker in this population with the possibility of predicting functional hearing outcome.
Funder: NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health