Understanding the processing of degraded speech: electroencephalographic measures as a surrogate for recovery from concussion

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The recent spotlight on concussion has illuminated deficits in the current standard of care with regard to addressing acute and persistent cognitive signs and symptoms of mild brain injury. This

The recent spotlight on concussion has illuminated deficits in the current standard of care with regard to addressing acute and persistent cognitive signs and symptoms of mild brain injury. This stems, in part, from the diffuse nature of the injury, which tends not to produce focal cognitive or behavioral deficits that are easily identified or tracked. Indeed it has been shown that patients with enduring symptoms have difficulty describing their problems; therefore, there is an urgent need for a sensitive measure of brain activity that corresponds with higher order cognitive processing. The development of a neurophysiological metric that maps to clinical resolution would inform decisions about diagnosis and prognosis, including the need for clinical intervention to address cognitive deficits. The literature suggests the need for assessment of concussion under cognitively demanding tasks. Here, a joint behavioral- high-density electroencephalography (EEG) paradigm was employed. This allows for the examination of cortical activity patterns during speech comprehension at various levels of degradation in a sentence verification task, imposing the need for higher-order cognitive processes. Eight participants with concussion listened to true-false sentences produced with either moderately to highly intelligible noise-vocoders. Behavioral data were simultaneously collected. The analysis of cortical activation patterns included 1) the examination of event-related potentials, including latency and source localization, and 2) measures of frequency spectra and associated power. Individual performance patterns were assessed during acute injury and a return visit several months following injury. Results demonstrate a combination of task-related electrophysiology measures correspond to changes in task performance during the course of recovery. Further, a discriminant function analysis suggests EEG measures are more sensitive than behavioral measures in distinguishing between individuals with concussion and healthy controls at both injury and recovery, suggesting the robustness of neurophysiological measures during a cognitively demanding task to both injury and persisting pathophysiology.