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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The effect of long-term unilateral deafness on the activation pattern in the auditory cortices of French-native speakers: influence of deafness side

Julien Hanss1234*, Evelyne Veuillet124, Kamel Adjout12, Julien Besle145, Lionel Collet1234 and Hung Thai-Van1234

Author Affiliations

1 Université de Lyon, Lyon, F-69003, France; Université Lyon 1, Lyon, F-69003, France

2 CNRS, UMR 5020, Neurosciences sensorielles-comportement-cognition, Lyon, F-69007, France

3 Hospices Civils de Lyon, service d'audiologie et d'explorations orofaciales, hôpital Edouard Herriot, Lyon, F-69003, France

4 Institut Fédératif des Neurosciences de Lyon, Lyon-Bron, F-69677, France

5 INSERM U821, Dynamique cérébrale et cognition, Bron, F-69500, France

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-23

Published: 23 March 2009



In normal-hearing subjects, monaural stimulation produces a normal pattern of asynchrony and asymmetry over the auditory cortices in favour of the contralateral temporal lobe. While late onset unilateral deafness has been reported to change this pattern, the exact influence of the side of deafness on central auditory plasticity still remains unclear. The present study aimed at assessing whether left-sided and right-sided deafness had differential effects on the characteristics of neurophysiological responses over auditory areas. Eighteen unilaterally deaf and 16 normal hearing right-handed subjects participated. All unilaterally deaf subjects had post-lingual deafness. Long latency auditory evoked potentials (late-AEPs) were elicited by two types of stimuli, non-speech (1 kHz tone-burst) and speech-sounds (voiceless syllable/pa/) delivered to the intact ear at 50 dB SL. The latencies and amplitudes of the early exogenous components (N100 and P150) were measured using temporal scalp electrodes.


Subjects with left-sided deafness showed major neurophysiological changes, in the form of a more symmetrical activation pattern over auditory areas in response to non-speech sound and even a significant reversal of the activation pattern in favour of the cortex ipsilateral to the stimulation in response to speech sound. This was observed not only for AEP amplitudes but also for AEP time course. In contrast, no significant changes were reported for late-AEP responses in subjects with right-sided deafness.


The results show that cortical reorganization induced by unilateral deafness mainly occurs in subjects with left-sided deafness. This suggests that anatomical and functional plastic changes are more likely to occur in the right than in the left auditory cortex. The possible perceptual correlates of such neurophysiological changes are discussed.