Brainstem responses to speech syllables

Nicole Russo*, Trent Nicol, Gabriella Musacchia, Nina Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


Objective: brainvoltsTo establish reliable procedures and normative values to quantify brainstem encoding of speech sounds. Methods: Auditory brainstem responses to speech syllables presented in quiet and in background noise were obtained from 38 normal children. Brainstem responses consist of transient and sustained, periodic components - much like the speech signal itself. Transient peak responses were analyzed with measures of latency, amplitude, area, and slope. Magnitude of sustained, periodic frequency-following responses was assessed with root mean square, fundamental frequency, and first formant amplitudes; timing was assessed by stimulus-to-response and quiet-to-noise inter-response correlations. Results: Measures of transient and sustained components of the brainstem response to speech syllables were reliably obtained with high test-retest stability and low variability across subjects. All components of the brainstem response were robust in quiet. Background noise disrupted the transient responses whereas the sustained response was more resistant to the deleterious effects of noise. Conclusions: The speech-evoked brainstem response faithfully reflects many acoustic properties of the speech signal. Procedures to quantitatively describe it have been developed. Significance: Accurate and precise manifestation of stimulus timing at the auditory brainstem is a hallmark of the normal perceptual system. The brainstem response to speech sounds provides a mechanism for understanding the neural bases of normal and deficient attention-independent auditory function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2021-2030
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Brainstem response
  • Effects of noise
  • Frequency-following response
  • Speech syllable response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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