An Electrophysiological Study of Cognitive and Emotion Processing in Type I Chiari Malformation

James R. Houston, Michelle L. Hughes, Mei Ching Lien, Bryn A. Martin, Francis Loth, Mark Luciano, Sarel Vorster, Philip A. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Type I Chiari malformation (CMI) is a neurological condition in which the cerebellar tonsils descend into the cervical spinal subarachnoid space resulting in cervico-medullary compression. Early case-control investigations have indicated cognitive deficits in the areas of attention, memory, processing speed, and visuospatial function. The present study further examined cognitive and emotional processing deficits associated with CMI using a dual-task paradigm. Nineteen CMI patients were recruited during pre-surgical consultation and 19 matched control participants identified emotional expressions in separate single and asynchronous dual-task designs. To extend earlier behavioral studies of cognitive effects in CMI, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in the dual-task design. Though response times were slower for CMI patients across the two tasks, behavioral and ERP analyses indicated that patients did not differ from matched controls in the ability to allocate attentional resources between the two tasks. P1 ERP component analyses provided no indication of an emotional arousal deficit in our CMI sample while P3 ERP component analyses suggested a CMI-related deficit in emotional regulation. P3 analysis also yielded evidence for a frontalization of neurophysiological activity in CMI patients. Pain and related depression and anxiety factors accounted for CMI deficits in single-task, but not dual-task, response times. Results are consistent with a dysfunctional fronto-parietal attentional network resulting from either the indirect effects of chronic pain or the direct effects of CMI pathophysiology stemming from cervico-medullary compression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 30 2018


  • Affective arousal
  • Cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome
  • Chiari malformation
  • Chronic pain
  • Divided attention
  • Emotion processing
  • Emotion regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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  • Cite this

    Houston, J. R., Hughes, M. L., Lien, M. C., Martin, B. A., Loth, F., Luciano, M., Vorster, S., & Allen, P. A. (Accepted/In press). An Electrophysiological Study of Cognitive and Emotion Processing in Type I Chiari Malformation. Cerebellum, 1-15.