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Auditory sensory memory span for duration is severely curtailed in females with Rett Syndrome.

By Tufikameni Brima, Sophie Molholm, Ciara J. Molloy, Olga V. Sysoeva, Eric Nicholas, Aleksandra Djukic, Edward G. Freedman, John J. Foxe

Posted 05 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/568832 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41398-019-0463-0)

Rett syndrome (RTT), a rare neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene, is typified by profound cognitive impairment and severe language impairment, rendering it very difficult to accurately measure auditory processing capabilities behaviorally in this population. Here we leverage the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the event-related potential to measure the ability of RTT patients to decode and store occasional duration deviations in a stream of auditory stimuli. Sensory memory for duration, crucial for speech comprehension, has not been studied in RTT. High-density EEG was successfully recorded in 18 females with RTT and 27 age-matched typically developing (TD) controls (aged 6-22 years). Data from 7 RTT and 3 TD participants were excluded for excessive noise. Stimuli were 1kHz tones with a standard duration of 100ms and deviant duration of 180ms. To assess the sustainability of sensory memory, stimulus presentation rate was varied with stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 450, 900 and 1800ms. MMNs with maximum negativity over fronto-central scalp and a latency of 220-230ms were clearly evident for each presentation rate in the TD group, but only for the shortest SOA in the RTT group. Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed a significant group by SOA interaction. MMN amplitude correlated with age in the TD group only. MMN amplitude was not correlated with the Rett Syndrome Severity Scale. This study indicates that while RTT patients can decode deviations in auditory duration, the span of this sensory memory system is severely foreshortened, with likely implications for speech decoding abilities.

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