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Cortical responses to changes in acoustic regularity are differentially modulated by attentional load.

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tim GriffithsORCiD


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This study investigates how acoustic change-events are represented in a listener's brain when attention is strongly focused elsewhere. Using magneto-encephalography (MEG) we examine whether cortical responses to different kinds of changes in stimulus statistics are similarly influenced by attentional load, and whether the processing of such acoustic changes in auditory cortex depends on modality-specific or general processing resources. We investigated these issues by examining cortical responses to two basic forms of acoustic transitions: (1) Violations of a simple acoustic pattern and (2) the emergence of a regular pattern from a random one. To simulate a complex sensory environment, these patterns were presented concurrently with streams of auditory and visual decoys. Listeners were required to perform tasks of high- and low-attentional-load in these domains. Results demonstrate that while auditory attentional-load does not influence the cortical representation of simple violations of regularity, it significantly reduces the magnitude of responses to the emergence of a regular acoustic pattern, suggesting a fundamentally skewed representation of the unattended auditory scene. In contrast, visual attentional-load had no effect on either transition response, consistent with the hypothesis that processing resources necessary for change detection are modality-specific. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chait M, Ruff CC, Griffiths TD, McAlpine D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: NeuroImage

Year: 2012

Volume: 59

Issue: 2

Pages: 1932-1941

Print publication date: 16/09/2011

ISSN (print): 1053-8119

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9572

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.006

PubMed id: 21945789


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Funder referenceFunder name
Deafness Research UK
093292/Z/10/ZWellcome Trust