Lateral asymmetry in the ABR of neonates: Evidence and mechanisms

Yvonne S. Sininger, Barbara Cone-Wesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Lateralized processing of auditory stimuli occurs at the level of the auditory cortex but differences in function between the left and right sides are not clear at lower levels of the auditory system. The current study is designed to (1) investigate asymmetric auditory function at the ear and brainstem in human infants and (2) investigate possible mechanisms for asymmetry at these levels. Study 1 evaluated auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) in response to high and low-level clicks presented to the right and left ears of neonates. Wave V was significantly larger in amplitude and waves III and V were shorter in latency when the ABR was generated in the right ear. Study 2 investigated two possible mechanisms of such asymmetry by (a) using contralateral white noise masking to activate the medial olivocochlear system and (b) increasing stimulus rate to reveal neural conduction and synaptic mechanisms. ABR wave V, evoked by clicks to the left ear, showed a greater reduction in amplitude with contralateral noise than the response evoked from the right ear. No systematic asymmetries in ABR latencies or amplitudes were found with increased stimulus rate. We conclude that (1) the click-evoked ABR in neonates demonstrates asymmetric auditory function with a small but significant right ear advantage and (2) asymmetric activation of the medial olivocochlear system, specifically greater contralateral suppression of ABR produced by the left ear, is a possible mechanism for asymmetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Ear asymmetry
  • Medial olivocochlear system
  • Neonates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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