Functional Connectivity of Heschl’s Gyrus Associated With Age-Related Hearing Loss: A Resting-State fMRI Study

Megan C. Fitzhugh, Angela Hemesath, Sydney Y. Schaefer, Leslie C. Baxter, Corianne Rogalsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A large proportion of older adults experience hearing loss. Yet, the impact of hearing loss on the aging brain, particularly on large-scale brain networks that support cognition and language, is relatively unknown. We used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify hearing loss-related changes in the functional connectivity of primary auditory cortex to determine if these changes are distinct from age and cognitive measures known to decline with age (e.g., working memory and processing speed). We assessed the functional connectivity of Heschl’s gyrus in 31 older adults (60–80 years) who expressed a range of hearing abilities from normal hearing to a moderate hearing loss. Our results revealed that both left and right Heschl’s gyri were significantly connected to regions within auditory, sensorimotor, and visual cortices, as well as to regions within the cingulo-opercular network known to support attention. Participant age, working memory, and processing speed did not significantly correlate with any connectivity measures once variance due to hearing loss was removed. However, hearing loss was associated with increased connectivity between right Heschl’s gyrus and the dorsal anterior cingulate in the cingulo-opercular network even once variance due to age, working memory, and processing speed was removed. This greater connectivity was not driven by high frequency hearing loss, but rather by hearing loss measured in the 0.5–2 kHz range, particularly in the left ear. We conclude that hearing loss-related differences in functional connectivity in older adults are distinct from other aging-related differences and provide insight into a possible neural mechanism of compensation for hearing loss in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2485
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 6 2019


  • Heschl’s gyrus
  • aging
  • functional connectivity
  • hearing loss
  • resting-state fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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