Unilateral deafness in children affects development of multi-modal modulation and default mode networks

Vincent J. Schmithorst, Elena Plante, Scott Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Monaural auditory input due to congenital or acquired unilateral hearing loss (UHL) may have neurobiological effects on the developing brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated the effect of UHL on the development of functional brain networks used for cross-modal processing. Children ages 7-12 with moderate or greater unilateral hearing loss of sensorineural origin (UHL-SN; N = 21) and normal-hearing controls (N = 23) performed an fMRI-compatible adaptation of the Token Test involving listening to a sentence such as "touched" the small green circle and the large blue square and simultaneously viewing an arrow touching colored shapes on a video. Children with right or severe-to-profound UHL-SN displayed smaller activation in a region encompassing the right inferior temporal, middle temporal, and middle occipital gyrus (BA 19/37/39), evidencing differences due to monaural hearing in cross-modal modulation of the visual processing pathway. Children with UHL-SN displayed increased activation in the left posterior superior temporal gyrus, likely the result either of more effortful low-level processing of auditory stimuli or differences in cross-modal modulation of the auditory processing pathway. Additionally, children with UHL-SN displayed reduced deactivation of anterior and posterior regions of the default mode network. Results suggest that monaural hearing affects the development of brain networks related to cross-modal sensory processing and the regulation of the default network during processing of spoken language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 25 2014


  • Children
  • Default mode network
  • Functional MRI
  • Multi-modal processing
  • Unilateral hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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