Selective attention to temporal features on nested time scales

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Feb;25(2):450-9. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht240. Epub 2013 Aug 26.


Meaningful auditory stimuli such as speech and music often vary simultaneously along multiple time scales. Thus, listeners must selectively attend to, and selectively ignore, separate but intertwined temporal features. The current study aimed to identify and characterize the neural network specifically involved in this feature-selective attention to time. We used a novel paradigm where listeners judged either the duration or modulation rate of auditory stimuli, and in which the stimulation, working memory demands, response requirements, and task difficulty were held constant. A first analysis identified all brain regions where individual brain activation patterns were correlated with individual behavioral performance patterns, which thus supported temporal judgments generically. A second analysis then isolated those brain regions that specifically regulated selective attention to temporal features: Neural responses in a bilateral fronto-parietal network including insular cortex and basal ganglia decreased with degree of change of the attended temporal feature. Critically, response patterns in these regions were inverted when the task required selectively ignoring this feature. The results demonstrate how the neural analysis of complex acoustic stimuli with multiple temporal features depends on a fronto-parietal network that simultaneously regulates the selective gain for attended and ignored temporal features.

Keywords: attention to time; auditory perception; fMRI; time perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult