Auditory test to help identify learning impaired

Scientists in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University have developed a new diagnostic tool that can quickly and objectively identify disordered auditory processing of sound, a problem associated with learning impairments in many children. With early detection, these children have a high likelihood of benefiting from remediation strategies involving auditory training.

The University recently licensed the technology, called BioMAP (Biological Marker of Auditory Processing), to Bio-logic Systems Corp., located in Mundelein, Ill.

“The original versions of BioMAP have been used to demonstrate that brainstem-level neural timing deficits exist in roughly 30 percent of children with language-based learning problems such as dyslexia and in children whose speech perception is extraordinarily disrupted by environmental noise,” said Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory. “In our experience, children with these timing deficits appear to benefit most from remediation strategies involving computer-based auditory training. We anticipate that our partnership with Bio-logic will be fruitful in making this objective marker of auditory function available to clinics and private practices worldwide.”

The BioMAP is a robust and repeatable speech-evoked response that can reliably identify individuals with deficits in the timing of neural responses that cannot be revealed with other stimuli. Unlike conventional brainstem evoked response recordings using clicks or tones, the BioMAP uses speech syllables that better reflect the acoustic and phonetic complexities characteristic of speech. Using electrodes placed on the scalp, the BioMAP reflects neural activity produced by the auditory brainstem in response to speech. These neural events mimic the acoustic characteristics of the speech signal with remarkable fidelity.

“Many factors can contribute to a diagnosis of a learning problem and current testing methodologies have not been consistent or reliable for diagnosing individuals with learning disabilities,” said Gabriel Raviv, chairman and chief executive officer, Bio-logic Systems Corp. “The BioMAP adds to the existing battery of behavioral and evaluative tests an objective, valid and reliable means of identifying those individuals with auditory processing disorders.”

Trent Nicol, manager of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, and Steven G. Zecker, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders and a learning disabilities specialist at Northwestern, are key contributors to the development of the BioMAP.

From Northwestern University

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