Semin Hear 2002; 23(4): 251-262
DOI: 10.1055/s-2002-35875
Copyright © 2002 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel.: +1(212) 584-4662

Central Auditory System and Central Auditory Processing Disorders: Some Conceptual Issues

Dennis P. Phillips
  • Hearing Research Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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Publication History

Publication Date:
04 December 2002 (online)


The central auditory system has both parallel and hierarchical afferent architectures. In the frequency domain, it is tonotopically constrained, and in the spatial domain, it is dominated by a representation of the contralateral acoustic hemifield. The functions supported by the afferent pathways can be somewhat overlapping, and the connectivity among the pathways is to some degree plastic. Partial deafferentation (in the form of high-frequency hearing loss) and behavioral experience are capable of causing alterations in tonotopic maps in the more rostral auditory system, even in adult animals. Central auditory processing is often frequency-specific. The temporal processes needed for normal auditory function are diverse, which is to be expected given the heterogeneous ways in which auditory events are disposed in time and encoded neurally. Central auditory pathologies need not respect structural or functional boundaries in the brain, and so should be expected to have idiosyncratic presentations. Management strategies based on auditory training may exploit basic neuroplasticity, but more evidence is needed to substantiate any hypothesis of their differential efficacy in remediation of central auditory processing disorders or language and reading problems.