Individuals with developmental language disabilities, including developmental dyslexia and specific language impairment (SLI), exhibit impairments in processing rapidly presented auditory stimuli. It has been hypothesized that these deficits are associated with concurrent deficits in speech perception and, in turn, impaired language development. Additionally, postmortem analyses of human dyslexic brains have revealed the presence of focal neocortical malformations such as cerebrocortical microgyria. In an initial study bridging these research domains, we found that male rats with induced microgyria were impaired in discriminating rapidly presented auditory stimuli. In order to further assess this anatomical-behavioral association, we designed two experiments using auditory-reflex modification. These studies were intended to assess whether auditory processing deficits in microgyric male rats would be seen in threshold detection of a silent gap in white noise, and in oddball detection of a two-tone stimulus of variable duration. Results showed no differences between sham and microgyric subjects on gap detection, but did show that microgyric subjects were impaired in the discrimination of two-tone stimuli presented in an oddball paradigm. This impairment was evident for stimuli with total duration of 64 msec or less, while both groups were able to discriminate stimuli with duration of 89 msec or greater. The current results further support the relationship between malformations of the cerebral cortex and deficits in rapid auditory processing. They also suggest that the parameters characterizing rapid auditory processing deficits for a specific task may be influenced by stimulus features and/or cognitive demand of that particular task.

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