Behav Brain Funct 2016 Jan 4;12(1). Epub 2016 Jan 4.
Cicero Learning, University of Helsinki, PO Box 9, 00014, Helsinki, Finland.
Background: A large group of young children are exposed to repetitive middle ear infections but the effects of the fluctuating hearing sensations on immature central auditory system are not fully understood. The present study investigated the consequences of early childhood recurrent acute otitis media (RAOM) on involuntary auditory attention switching.
Methods: By utilizing auditory event-related potentials, neural mechanisms of involuntary attention were studied in 22-26 month-old children (N = 18) who had had an early childhood RAOM and healthy controls (N = 19). The earlier and later phase of the P3a (eP3a and lP3a) and the late negativity (LN) were measured for embedded novel sounds in the passive multi-feature paradigm with repeating standard and deviant syllable stimuli. The children with RAOM had tympanostomy tubes inserted and all the children in both study groups had to have clinically healthy ears at the time of the measurement assessed by an otolaryngologist.
Results: The results showed that lP3a amplitude diminished less from frontal to central and parietal areas in the children with RAOM than the controls. This might reflect an immature control of involuntary attention switch. Furthermore, the LN latency was longer in children with RAOM than in the controls, which suggests delayed reorientation of attention in RAOM.
Conclusions: The lP3a and LN responses are affected in toddlers who have had a RAOM even when their ears are healthy. This suggests detrimental long-term effects of RAOM on the neural mechanisms of involuntary attention.