Auditory brainstem response (ABR) reflects activation of the neural generators along the ascending auditory pathway when a sound is heard. In this study, we explored the relationship between brainstem encoding of click and speech signals in normal-learning children and in those with language-based learning problems. To that end, ABR was recorded from both types of stimuli. We found that the normal pattern of correlation between click- and speech-evoked ABRs was disrupted when speech-evoked ABRs were delayed. Thus, delayed responses to speech were not indicative of clinically abnormal responses to clicks. We conclude that these two responses reflect largely separate neural processes and that only processes involved in encoding complex signals such as speech are impaired in children with learning problems.

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