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Attentional modulation of human auditory cortex

Nature Neuroscience volume 7, pages 658663 (2004) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Attention powerfully influences auditory perception, but little is understood about the mechanisms whereby attention sharpens responses to unattended sounds. We used high-resolution surface mapping techniques (using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) to examine activity in human auditory cortex during an intermodal selective attention task. Stimulus-dependent activations (SDAs), evoked by unattended sounds during demanding visual tasks, were maximal over mesial auditory cortex. They were tuned to sound frequency and location, and showed rapid adaptation to repeated sounds. Attention-related modulations (ARMs) were isolated as response enhancements that occurred when subjects performed pitch-discrimination tasks. In contrast to SDAs, ARMs were localized to lateral auditory cortex, showed broad frequency and location tuning, and increased in amplitude with sound repetition. The results suggest a functional dichotomy of auditory cortical fields: stimulus-determined mesial fields that faithfully transmit acoustic information, and attentionally labile lateral fields that analyze acoustic features of behaviorally relevant sounds.

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Acknowledgements

Supported by grant DC005814 from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), by the Department of Veterans Affairs Research Service, a MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute fellowship to C.P., the Academy of Finland (grants 49126 and 102316) and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale. We thank T. Herron for the development of statistical tools, and G. Recanzone, D. Swick and the anonymous reviewers for comments on previous versions of the manuscript.

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Affiliations

  1. Center for Neuroscience, UC Davis, 1544 Newton Court, Davis, California 95616, USA.

    • Christopher I Petkov
    •  & David L Woods
  2. Human Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory, UC Davis and VANCHCS, 150 Muir Road, Martinez, California 95553, USA.

    • Xiaojian Kang
    • , E William Yund
    •  & David L Woods
  3. Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Siltavuorenpenger 20 D, FIN-00014, Finland.

    • Kimmo Alho
  4. Mental Processes and Brain Activation Lab, INSERM U280, 151, cours Albert Thomas, 69424 Lyon, cedex 03, France.

    • Olivier Bertrand
  5. UC Davis Department of Neurology, 4860 Y Street, Suite 3700, Sacramento, California 95817, USA.

    • David L Woods
  6. UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, 202 Cousteau Place, Suite 201, Davis, California 95616, USA.

    • David L Woods

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Competing interests

D.L.W. has a commercial interest in the Presentation software that was used to deliver stimuli and record behavioral responses in this experiment.

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Correspondence to David L Woods.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1256

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