Stability and plasticity of auditory brainstem function across the lifespan

Erika Skoe, Jennifer Krizman, Samira Anderson, Nina Kraus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


The human auditory brainstem is thought to undergo rapid developmental changes early in life until age ∼2 followed by prolonged stability until aging-related changes emerge. However, earlier work on brainstem development was limited by sparse sampling across the lifespan and/or averaging across children and adults. Using a larger dataset than past investigations, we aimed to trace more subtle variations in auditory brainstem function that occur normally from infancy into the eighth decade of life. To do so, we recorded auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) to a click stimulus and a speech syllable (da) in 586 normal-hearing healthy individuals. Although each set of ABR measures (latency, frequency encoding, response consistency, nonstimulus activity) has a distinct developmental profile, across all measures developmental changes were found to continue well past age 2. In addition to an elongated developmental trajectory and evidence for multiple auditory developmental processes, we revealed a period of overshoot during childhood (5-11 years old) for latency and amplitude measures, when the latencies are earlier and the amplitudes are greater than the adult value. Our data also provide insight into the capacity for experience-dependent auditory plasticity at different stages in life and underscore the importance of using age-specific norms in clinical and experimental applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1426
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • auditory
  • auditory brainstem response
  • development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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