Early neural disruption and auditory processing outcomes in rodent models: Implications for developmental language disability

R. Holly Fitch, Michelle L. Alexander, Steven W. Threlkeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Most researchers in the field of neural plasticity are familiar with the "Kennard Principle," which purports a positive relationship between age at brain injury and severity of subsequent deficits (plateauing in adulthood). As an example, a child with left hemispherectomy can recover seemingly normal language, while an adult with focal injury to sub-regions of left temporal and/or frontal cortex can suffer dramatic and permanent language loss. Here we present data regarding the impact of early brain injury in rat models as a function of type and timing, measuring long-term behavioral outcomes via auditory discrimination tasks varying in temporal demand. These tasks were created to model (in rodents) aspects of human sensory processing that may correlate-both developmentally and functionally-with typical and atypical language. We found that bilateral focal lesions to the cortical plate in rats during active neuronal migration led to worse auditory outcomes than comparable lesions induced after cortical migration was complete. Conversely, unilateral hypoxic-ischemic (HI) injuries (similar to those seen in premature infants and term infants with birth complications) led to permanent auditory processing deficits when induced at a neurodevelopmental point comparable to human "term," but only transient deficits (undetectable in adulthood) when induced in a "preterm" window. Convergent evidence suggests that regardless of when or how disruption of early neural development occurs, the consequences may be particularly deleterious to rapid auditory processing (RAP) outcomes when they trigger developmental alterations that extend into subcortical structures (i.e., lower sensory processing stations). Collective findings hold implications for the study of behavioral outcomes following early brain injury as well as genetic/environmental disruption, and are relevant to our understanding of the neurologic risk factors underlying developmental language disability in human populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number58
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 21 2013


  • Cortical lesion
  • Language disability
  • Medial geniculate nucleus
  • Plasticity and injury
  • Rapid auditory processing
  • Rodent models
  • Timing effects


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