Background: The prevalence of deformational plagiocephaly has risen dramatically in recent years, now affecting 15 percent or more of infants. Prior research using developmental scales suggests that these children may be at elevated risk for developmental delays. However, the low positive predictive value of such instruments in identifying long-term impairment, coupled with their poor reliability in infants, warrants the development of methods to more precisely measure brain function in craniofacial patients. Event-related potentials offer a direct measure of cortical activity that is highly applicable to young populations and has been implemented in other disorders to predict long-term cognitive functioning. The current study used event-related potentials to contrast neural correlates of auditory perception in infants with deformational plagiocephaly and typically developing children.
Methods: Event-related potentials were recorded while 16 infants with deformational plagiocephaly and 18 nonaffected controls passively listened to speech sounds. Given prior research suggesting their association with subsequent functioning, analyses focused on the P150 and N450 event-related potential components.
Results: Deformational plagiocephaly patients and normal controls showed comparable cortical responses to speech sounds at both auditory event-related potential components.
Conclusions: Children with deformational plagiocephaly demonstrate neural responses to language that are consistent with normative expectations and comparable to those of typical children. These results indicate that head shape deformity secondary to supine sleep is not associated with impairments in auditory processing. The applicability of the current methods in early infancy suggests that electrophysiologic brain recordings represent a promising method of monitoring brain development in children with cranial disorders.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Risk, II.