Neurochemical and functional reorganization of the cognitive-ear link underlies cognitive impairment in presbycusis

Ning Li, Wen Ma, Fuxin Ren, Xiao Li, Fuyan Li, Wei Zong, Lili Wu, Zongrui Dai, Steve C.N. Hui, Richard A.E. Edden, Muwei Li, Fei Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies suggest that the interaction between presbycusis and cognitive impairment may be partially explained by the cognitive-ear link. However, the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, we combined magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate auditory gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate (Glu) levels, intra- and inter-network functional connectivity, and their relationships with auditory and cognitive function in 51 presbycusis patients and 51 well-matched healthy controls. Our results confirmed reorganization of the cognitive-ear link in presbycusis, including decreased auditory GABA and Glu levels and aberrant functional connectivity involving auditory networks (AN) and cognitive-related networks, which were associated with reduced speech perception or cognitive impairment. Moreover, mediation analyses revealed that decreased auditory GABA levels and dysconnectivity between the AN and default mode network (DMN) mediated the association between hearing loss and impaired information processing speed in presbycusis. These findings highlight the importance of AN-DMN dysconnectivity in cognitive-ear link reorganization leading to cognitive impairment, and hearing loss may drive reorganization via decreased auditory GABA levels. Modulation of GABA neurotransmission may lead to new treatment strategies for cognitive impairment in presbycusis patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119861
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cognitive-ear link
  • GABA
  • Presbycusis
  • Resting-state networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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