Relationships among Peripheral and Central Electrophysiological Measures of Spatial and Spectral Selectivity and Speech Perception in Cochlear Implant Users

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The ability to perceive speech is related to the listener's ability to differentiate among frequencies (i.e., spectral resolution). Cochlear implant (CI) users exhibit variable speech-perception and spectral-resolution abilities, which can be attributed in part to the extent of electrode interactions at the periphery (i.e., spatial selectivity). However, electrophysiological measures of peripheral spatial selectivity have not been found to correlate with speech perception. The purpose of this study was to evaluate auditory processing at the periphery and cortex using both simple and spectrally complex stimuli to better understand the stages of neural processing underlying speech perception. The hypotheses were that (1) by more completely characterizing peripheral excitation patterns than in previous studies, significant correlations with measures of spectral selectivity and speech perception would be observed, (2) adding information about processing at a level central to the auditory nerve would account for additional variability in speech perception, and (3) responses elicited with spectrally complex stimuli would be more strongly correlated with speech perception than responses elicited with spectrally simple stimuli. Design: Eleven adult CI users participated. Three experimental processor programs (MAPs) were created to vary the likelihood of electrode interactions within each participant. For each MAP, a subset of 7 of 22 intracochlear electrodes was activated: adjacent (MAP 1), every other (MAP 2), or every third (MAP 3). Peripheral spatial selectivity was assessed using the electrically evoked compound action potential (ECAP) to obtain channel-interaction functions for all activated electrodes (13 functions total). Central processing was assessed by eliciting the auditory change complex with both spatial (electrode pairs) and spectral (rippled noise) stimulus changes. Speech-perception measures included vowel discrimination and the Bamford-Kowal-Bench Speechin-Noise test. Spatial and spectral selectivity and speech perception were expected to be poorest with MAP 1 (closest electrode spacing) and best with MAP 3 (widest electrode spacing). Relationships among the electrophysiological and speech-perception measures were evaluated using mixed-model and simple linear regression analyses. Results: All electrophysiological measures were significantly correlated with each other and with speech scores for the mixed-model analysis, which takes into account multiple measures per person (i.e., experimental MAPs). The ECAP measures were the best predictor. In the simple linear regression analysis on MAP 3 data, only the cortical measures were significantly correlated with speech scores; spectral auditory change complex amplitude was the strongest predictor. Conclusions: The results suggest that both peripheral and central electrophysiological measures of spatial and spectral selectivity provide valuable information about speech perception. Clinically, it is often desirable to optimize performance for individual CI users. These results suggest that ECAP measures may be most useful for within-subject applications when multiple measures are performed to make decisions about processor options. They also suggest that if the goal is to compare performance across individuals based on a single measure, then processing central to the auditory nerve (specifically, cortical measures of discriminability) should be considered.



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