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Neuroscience: Sound processing may help diagnose concussion

Scientific Reports

December 22, 2016

A biological marker, which may help diagnose children who have experienced concussion, has been identified in a study published in Scientific Reports. In this initial study, the authors tested the hypothesis that concussions disrupt the neural processing of speech, and believe that measuring speech-evoked frequency-following responses (FFRs) - neural signals generated in the brain upon hearing sound - may assist in the diagnosis and management of concussions.

Currently no single test has been validated to reliably diagnose concussion; instead, clinicians rely on weighing up a number of symptoms across multiple organ systems in order to make a diagnosis. However, among the consequences of mild traumatic brain injuries, such as concussion, is a compromised ability to make sense of sound.

In a study involving 40 children (20 of whom had sustained concussion) with an average age of 13, Nina Kraus and colleagues investigated if concussion disrupts the ability to process the fundamental frequency of speech - an acoustic cue used to track and identify sounds and speakers. The authors found that children with concussion exhibit a signature neural profile that distinguishes them from those without concussion. By measuring FFRs of participants in each group, the authors found that monitoring neural processing of sound correctly identified 90% of concussion cases and 95% of the control cases. The authors note that further studies are needed, including validation in a novel cohort, but FFR may assist in the diagnosis and management of concussions in the future.

doi: 10.1038/srep39009

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