Residual neural processing of musical sound features in adult cochlear implant users

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Lydia Timm
  • Peter Vuust
  • Elvira Brattico
  • Deepashri Agrawal
  • Stefan Debener
  • Andreas Büchner
  • Reinhard Dengler
  • Matthias Wittfoth

Research units

  • Hannover Medical School
  • Royal Acad Mus Aarhus Aalborg
  • University of Helsinki
  • Cluster of Excellence Hearing4all
  • Aarhus University
  • Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg


Auditory processing in general and music perception in particular are hampered in adult cochlear implant (CI) users. To examine the residual music perception skills and their underlying neural correlates in CI users implanted in adolescence or adulthood, we conducted an electrophysiological and behavioral study comparing adult CI users with normal-hearing age-matched controls (NH controls). We used a newly developed musical multi-feature paradigm, which makes it possible to test automatic auditory discrimination of six different types of sound feature changes inserted within a musical enriched setting lasting only 20 min. The presentation of stimuli did not require the participants' attention, allowing the study of the early automatic stage of feature processing in the auditory cortex. For the CI users, we obtained mismatch negativity (MMN) brain responses to five feature changes but not to changes of rhythm, whereas we obtained MMNs for all the feature changes in the NH controls. Furthermore, the MMNs to deviants of pitch of CI users were reduced in amplitude and later than those of NH controls for changes of pitch and guitar timber. No other group differences in MMN parameters were found to changes in intensity and saxophone timber. Furthermore, the MMNs in CI users reflected the behavioral scores from a respective discrimination task and were correlated with patients' age and speech intelligibility. Our results suggest that even though CI users are not performing at the same level as NH controls in neural discrimination of pitch-based features, they do possess potential neural abilities for music processing. However, CI users showed a disrupted ability to automatically discriminate rhythmic changes compared with controls. The current behavioral and MMN findings highlight the residual neural skills for music processing even in CI users who have been implanted in adolescence or adulthood. Highlights: - Automatic brain responses to musical feature changes reflect the limitations of central auditory processing in adult Cochlear Implant users. - The brains of adult CI users automatically process sound features changes even when inserted in a musical context. - CI users show disrupted automatic discriminatory abilities for rhythm in the brain. - Our fast paradigm demonstrate residual musical abilities in the brains of adult CI users giving hope for their future rehabilitation.


Original languageEnglish
Article number181
Pages (from-to)1-11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Auditory evoked potentials, Cochlear implant, Mismatch negativity, Music multi-feature paradigm, Music perception

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 9433934