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Consequences of auditory deprivation in animals and humans

An electron microscopic study of the cerebral cortex of mutant deaf mice (Deol's dn gene) has shown differences in synaptic organisation between these mice and normally hearing ones. In the auditory cortex of the deaf mice, there are fewer synapses and these are larger than in the normally hearing, whereas there is no difference between these two categories in the visual cortex. These results are the reverse of those observed by other authors in the occipital cortex of rats raised in an enriched or impoverished environment. In humans, the functional consequences of early hearing loss have been investigated on moderately to severely deaf (60-80 db mean loss) youngsters, who have been tested for their capacity of categorical perception, auditory discrimination, and production of significant contrasts between stop consonants. Categorical perception was absent in all but one subject. Auditory discrimination was poor for both the voiced-voiceless contrast and the place of articulation contrast. In the production experiments, the subjects had greater difficulty in producing the voiced-voiceless than the place of articulation contrasts. The possible relevance of these animal and human studies to cochlear implantation is discussed.



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