What's to lose and what's to learn

development under auditory deprivation, cochlear implants and limits of cortical plasticity

Andrej Kral*, Jos J. Eggermont

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

181 Citations (Scopus)


Sensory and environmental manipulations affect the development of sensory systems. Higher-order auditory representations (auditory categories or "objects") evolve with experience and via top-down influences modify representations in early auditory areas. During development of a functional auditory system, the capacity for bottom-up reorganizations is successively less well expressed due to a molecular change in synaptic properties. It is, however, complemented by top-down influences that direct and modulate the residual (adult) capacity for circuit reorganization. In a deprived condition, this developmental step is substantially affected. As higher-order representations cannot be established in absence of auditory experience, the developmental decrease in capacity for "bottom-up regulated" reorganizations (as repeatedly demonstrated in also in deprived sensory systems) cannot be complemented by an increasing influence of top-down modulations. In consequence, the ability to learn is compromised in sensory deprivation, resulting in a sensitive period for recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory cortex
  • Cochlear implant
  • Deafness
  • Development
  • Reversed hierarchy
  • Top-down

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