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

Maria Chait*, Christian C. Ruff, Timothy D. Griffiths, David McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1932-1941
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroImage
Volume59
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

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