Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, ten healthy subjects were scanned whilst listening to consonant-vowel syllables under three different conditions: (i) a 'no-attention' condition required subjects to ignore the stimuli; (ii) an 'attend' condition requiring attentive listening to stimuli; (iii) a 'detect' condition requiring detection of a specific target syllable. Hemodynamic responses were measured in the primary and secondary auditory cortex. These three conditions were associated with significantly different activations in the primary and secondary auditory cortex. The strongest activations were found for the 'detect' condition, followed by the 'attend' condition. The weakest activation was evident during the 'no-attention' condition. There were also stronger activations in the left hemisphere and within the primary auditory cortex. These results suggest that the primary and secondary auditory cortex play a main role in the selective attention.