Temporal dynamics of selective attention during dichotic listening

Cereb Cortex. 2010 Jun;20(6):1360-71. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp201. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


The ability to selectively attend to one sound and ignore other competing sounds is essential for auditory communication. Subjects in our study detected occasional changes in the frequency of amplitude modulation in sounds presented to one ear while ignoring sounds in the other ear. Neuromagnetic source analysis revealed attention-related activity in a cortical network including primary auditory cortices, posterior superior temporal gyri, inferior parietal lobules (IPLs), inferior frontal gyri (IFG), and medial frontal gyri. Time courses of event-related magnetoencephalography responses were analyzed during the interval between stimulus presentation and behavioral response. Enhanced neural responses to targets and standards in the attended ear indicated early modulation of sensitivity in the attended sensory channel. A subsequent process of discriminative stimulus selection was indexed by a response increase over time for targets and decreasing activity for standards. Enhanced responses to deviants in the unattended ear indicated discriminative processing of unattended inputs as well, though to a lesser extent than for attended stimuli. Superior temporal gyrus, planum temporale, and the IPL were prominently involved in stimulus selection, whereas medial frontal regions were linked to initiation of behavioral responses and sustained activity in IFG suggested a role in attentional control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dichotic Listening Tests / methods*
  • Dichotic Listening Tests / psychology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Random Allocation
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult