Attention improves population-level frequency tuning in human auditory cortex
ABSTRACT Attention improves auditory performance in noisy environments by either enhancing the processing of task-relevant stimuli ("gain"), suppressing task-irrelevant information ("sharpening"), or both. In the present study, we investigated the effect of focused auditory attention on the population-level frequency tuning in human auditory cortex by means of magnetoencephalography. Using complex stimuli consisting of a test tone superimposed on different band-eliminated noises during active listening or distracted listening conditions, we observed that focused auditory attention caused not only gain, but also sharpening of frequency tuning in human auditory cortex as reflected by the N1m auditory evoked response. This combination of gain and sharpening in the auditory cortex may contribute to better auditory performance during focused auditory attention.
SourceAvailable from: Anna Marzecová[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Attention is a hypothetical mechanism in the service of perception that facilitates the processing of relevant information and inhibits the processing of irrelevant information. Prediction is a hypothetical mechanism in the service of perception that considers prior information when interpreting the sensorial input. Although both (attention and prediction) aid perception, they are rarely considered together. Auditory attention typically yields enhanced brain activity, whereas auditory prediction often results in attenuated brain responses. However, when strongly predicted sounds are omitted, brain responses to silence resemble those elicited by sounds. Studies jointly investigating attention and prediction revealed that these different mechanisms may interact, e.g. attention may magnify the processing differences between predicted and unpredicted sounds. Following the predictive coding theory, we suggest that prediction relates to predictions sent down from predictive models housed in higher levels of the processing hierarchy to lower levels and attention refers to gain modulation of the prediction error signal sent up to the higher level. As predictions encode contents and confidence in the sensory data, and as gain can be modulated by the intention of the listener and by the predictability of the input, various possibilities for interactions between attention and prediction can be unfolded. From this perspective, the traditional distinction between bottom-up/exogenous and top-down/endogenous driven attention can be revisited and the classic concepts of attentional gain and attentional trace can be integrated. © 2015 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.European Journal of Neuroscience 03/2015; 41(5):641-64. DOI:10.1111/ejn.12816 · 3.67 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Recent electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies provide converging evidence that attending to sounds increases the response selectivity of neuronal ensembles even at the first cortical stage of auditory stimulus processing in primary auditory cortex (A1). This is achieved by enhancement of responses in the regions that process attended frequency content, and by suppression of responses in the surrounding regions. The goals of our study were to define the extent to which A1 neuronal ensembles are involved in this process, determine its effect on the frequency tuning of A1 neuronal ensembles, and examine the involvement of the different cortical layers. To accomplish these, we analyzed laminar profiles of synaptic activity and action potentials recorded in A1 of macaques performing a rhythmic intermodal selective attention task. We found that the frequency tuning of neuronal ensembles was sharpened due to both increased gain at the preferentially processed or best frequency and increased response suppression at all other frequencies when auditory stimuli were attended. Our results suggest that these effects are due to a frequency-specific counterphase entrainment of ongoing delta oscillations, which predictively orchestrates opposite sign excitability changes across all of A1. This results in a net suppressive effect due to the large proportion of neuronal ensembles that do not specifically process the attended frequency content. Furthermore, analysis of laminar activation profiles revealed that although attention-related suppressive effects predominate the responses of supragranular neuronal ensembles, response enhancement is dominant in the granular and infragranular layers, providing evidence for layer-specific cortical operations in attentive stimulus processing. Copyright © 2014 the authors 0270-6474/14/3416496-13$15.00/0.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 12/2014; 34(49):16496-508. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2055-14.2014 · 6.75 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Brain activity related to time estimation processes in humans was analyzed using a perceptual phenomenon called auditory temporal assimilation. In a typical stimulus condition, two neighboring time intervals (T1 and T2 in this order) are perceived as equal even when the physical lengths of these time intervals are considerably different. Our previous event-related potential (ERP) study demonstrated that a slow negative component (SNCt) appears in the right-frontal brain area (around the F8 electrode) after T2, which is associated with judgment of the equality/inequality of T1 and T2. In the present study, we conducted two ERP experiments to further confirm the robustness of the SNCt. The stimulus patterns consisted of two neighboring time intervals marked by three successive tone bursts. Thirteen participants only listened to the patterns in the first session, and judged the equality/inequality of T1 and T2 in the next session. Behavioral data showed typical temporal assimilation. The ERP data revealed that three components (N1; contingent negative variation, CNV; and SNCt) emerged related to the temporal judgment. The N1 appeared in the central area, and its peak latencies corresponded to the physical timing of each marker onset. The CNV component appeared in the frontal area during T2 presentation, and its amplitude increased as a function of T1. The SNCt appeared in the right-frontal area after the presentation of T1 and T2, and its magnitude was larger for the temporal patterns causing perceptual inequality. The SNCt was also correlated with the perceptual equality/inequality of the same stimulus pattern, and continued up to about 400 ms after the end of T2. These results suggest that the SNCt can be a signature of equality/inequality judgment, which derives from the comparison of the two neighboring time intervals.Frontiers in Psychology 09/2014; 5:937. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00937 · 2.80 Impact Factor