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Electrophysiological evidence for a defect in the processing of temporal sound patterns in multiple sclerosis
  1. S J Jones,
  2. L Sprague,
  3. M Vaz Pato
  1. The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S J Jones, Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK;


Objectives: To assess the processing of spectrotemporal sound patterns in multiple sclerosis by using auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) to complex harmonic tones.

Methods: 22 patients with definite multiple sclerosis but mild disability and no auditory complaints were compared with 15 normal controls. Short latency AEPs were recorded using standard methods. Long latency AEPs were recorded to synthesised musical instrument tones, at onset every two seconds, at abrupt frequency changes every two seconds, and at the end of a two second period of 16/s frequency changes. The subjects were inattentive but awake, reading irrelevant material.

Results: Short latency AEPs were abnormal in only 4 of 22 patients, whereas long latency AEPs were abnormal to one or more stimuli in 17 of 22. No significant latency prolongation was seen in response to onset and infrequent frequency changes (P1, N1, P2) but the potentials at the end of 16/s frequency modulations, particularly the P2 peaking approximately 200 ms after the next expected change, were significantly delayed.

Conclusion: The delayed responses appear to be a mild disorder in the processing of change in temporal sound patterns. The delay may be conceived of as extra time taken to compare the incoming sound with the contents of a temporally ordered sensory memory store (the long auditory store or echoic memory), which generates a response when the next expected frequency change fails to occur. The defect cannot be ascribed to lesions of the afferent pathways and so may be due to disseminated brain lesions visible or invisible on magnetic resonance imaging.

  • auditory cortex
  • auditory evoked potential
  • mismatch negativity
  • multiple sclerosis
  • AEP, auditory evoked potential
  • ERP, event related potential
  • MIDI, musical instrument digital interface
  • MRI, magnetic resonance imaging
  • MS, multiple sclerosis

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  • Competing interests. none declared