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ARO: Brain Changes Affect Elders' Word Recognition

Age-related structural changes in medial Heschl's gyrus linked to perceptual difficulties

MONDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Structural changes in the auditory complex may explain why many older people have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, according to research presented at the 2009 Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology held Feb. 14 to 19 in Baltimore.

Kelly C. Harris, Ph.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and colleagues used MRI to assess the functional and structural differences in the speech-related and attention-related cortex between 18 younger adults aged 19 to 39, and 18 older adults aged 61 to 79, during word-recognition tests conducted under various conditions.

During the 1,600 Hertz low-pass-filter condition, the researchers found that older adults had significantly poorer word recognition, which was associated with age-related differences in gray matter volume of medial Heschl's gyrus. Even after controlling for high frequency hearing loss, they found a strong relationship between left Heschl's gyru gray matter volume, word recognition and anterior cingulate cortex activation.

"These results have clinical implications for rehabilitation and suggest that some of the perceptual difficulties experienced by older adults with hearing loss may be due to age-related structural changes in medial Heschl's gyrus," the authors conclude.

Abstract #141
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