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Open Access Technical advance

The frequency modulated auditory evoked response (FMAER), a technical advance for study of childhood language disorders: cortical source localization and selected case studies

Frank H Duffy1*, Yaman Z Eksioglu2, Alexander Rotenberg1, Joseph R Madsen3, Aditi Shankardass4 and Heidelise Als4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Avenue, 02115, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

2 Pediatric Neurology, Golisano Children’s Hospital and Upstate Medical University, 90 Presidential Plaza, 13202, Syracuse, New York, USA

3 Department of Neurosurgery, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Avenue, 02115, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

4 Department of Psychiatry (Psychology), Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 320 Longwood Avenue, 02115, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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BMC Neurology 2013, 13:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-12

Published: 25 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Language comprehension requires decoding of complex, rapidly changing speech streams. Detecting changes of frequency modulation (FM) within speech is hypothesized as essential for accurate phoneme detection, and thus, for spoken word comprehension. Despite past demonstration of FM auditory evoked response (FMAER) utility in language disorder investigations, it is seldom utilized clinically. This report's purpose is to facilitate clinical use by explaining analytic pitfalls, demonstrating sites of cortical origin, and illustrating potential utility.

Results

FMAERs collected from children with language disorders, including Developmental Dysphasia, Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and also normal controls - utilizing multi-channel reference-free recordings assisted by discrete source analysis - provided demonstratrions of cortical origin and examples of clinical utility. Recordings from inpatient epileptics with indwelling cortical electrodes provided direct assessment of FMAER origin. The FMAER is shown to normally arise from bilateral posterior superior temporal gyri and immediate temporal lobe surround. Childhood language disorders associated with prominent receptive deficits demonstrate absent left or bilateral FMAER temporal lobe responses. When receptive language is spared, the FMAER may remain present bilaterally. Analyses based upon mastoid or ear reference electrodes are shown to result in erroneous conclusions. Serial FMAER studies may dynamically track status of underlying language processing in LKS. FMAERs in ASD with language impairment may be normal or abnormal. Cortical FMAERs can locate language cortex when conventional cortical stimulation does not.

Conclusion

The FMAER measures the processing by the superior temporal gyri and adjacent cortex of rapid frequency modulation within an auditory stream. Clinical disorders associated with receptive deficits are shown to demonstrate absent left or bilateral responses. Serial FMAERs may be useful for tracking language change in LKS. Cortical FMAERs may augment invasive cortical language testing in epilepsy surgical patients. The FMAER may be normal in ASD and other language disorders when pathology spares the superior temporal gyrus and surround but presumably involves other brain regions. Ear/mastoid reference electrodes should be avoided and multichannel, reference free recordings utilized. Source analysis may assist in better understanding of complex FMAER findings.

Keywords:
Frequency modulation; Auditory evoked response; FMAER; Cortical; Source analysis; Language disorder; Landau-Kleffner syndrome; Autism; Children; Epilepsy surgery