Feb 2018 Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Blog

Cochlear patientUnsuccessful cochlear implant surgery can be painful and disappointing. Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center may have a new way to predict which patients should or shouldn't have the surgery.The team created a computer program that analyzes functional brain MRIs and predicts whether children will develop effective language skills after surgery.

Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics Long (Jason) Lu says, "If we can know that a patient will not respond to the cochlear implant treatment, then the patient won't have to undergo such a costly and time-consuming surgery in the first place."

Lu says the next step is securing funding for a large-scale clinical trial. If the computer program is proven successful, Lu believes it could be used in children's hospitals in two to three years.

The study included 44 children between the ages of 8 months and five-and-a-half years old. Half of the participants were hearing impaired. The other half had normal hearing and participated as control subjects. Two years after the surgeries, researchers then compared functional MRI data from pre and post surgery tests.

The study also found: When analysing results from pre-surgical auditory tests, the researchers identified elevated activity in two regions of the brain that effectively predict which children benefit most from implants, making them possible biomarkers. One is in the speech-recognition and language-association areas of the brain's left hemisphere, in the superior and middle temporal gyri. The second is in the brain's right cerebellar structures. The authors say the second finding is surprising and may provide new insights about neural circuitry that supports language and auditory development in the brain.

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