Sensory-based learning disability: Insights from brainstem processing of speech sounds

Karen Banai, Daniel Abrams, Nina Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Speech-evoked auditory brainstem responses (speech-ABR) provide a reliable marker of learning disability in a substantial subgroup of individuals with language-based learning problems (LDs). Here we review work describing the properties of the speech-ABR in typically developing children and in children with LD. We also review studies on the relationships between speech-ABR and the commonly used click-ABR, and between speech-ABR and auditory processing at the level of the cortex. In a critical examination of previously published data, we conclude that as many as 40% of LDs have abnormal speech-ABRs and that these individuals are also likely to exhibit abnormal cortical processing. Yet, the profile of learning problems these individuals exhibit is unspecific. Leaving open the question of causality, these data suggest that speech-ABR can be used to identify a large sub-population of LDs, those with abnormal auditory physiological function. Further studies are required to determine the functional relationships among abnormal speech-ABR, speech perception, and the pattern of literacy-related and cognitive deficits in LD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-532
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by NIH/NIDCD RO1-01510, F32DC008052 and the Hugh Knowles Center for Clinical and Basic Science in Hearing and its Disorders. We would like to thank Nicole Russo, Judy Song, Trent Nicol, Gabriella Musacchia, Krista Johnson, and Erika Skoe for their help at various stages of this project. Statement regarding conflict of interest: Nina Kraus is a coinventor of the BioMAPTM, but has no financial stake in the commercialization process. Northwestern University holds the patent and licensed it to Biologic for commercialization. Karen Banai and Daniel Abrams are not involved with BioMAPTM, and declare no conflict of interest.


  • ABR
  • AEP
  • Auditory processing
  • Dyslexia
  • Learning disability
  • Speech encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensory-based learning disability: Insights from brainstem processing of speech sounds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this