Neural Entrainment and Attentional Selection in the Listening Brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 2019 Nov;23(11):913-926. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2019.08.004. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


The streams of sounds we typically attend to abound in acoustic regularities. Neural entrainment is seen as an important mechanism that the listening brain exploits to attune to these regularities and to enhance the representation of attended sounds. We delineate the neurophysiology underlying this mechanism and review entrainment alongside its more pragmatic signature, often called 'speech tracking'. The latter has become a popular analytical approach to trace the reflection of acoustic and linguistic information at different levels of granularity, from neurophysiology to neuroimaging. As we discuss, the concept of entrainment offers both a putative neurophysiological mechanism for selective listening and a versatile window onto the neural basis of hearing and speech comprehension.

Keywords: attention; auditory cortex; hearing; low-frequency oscillations; phase coding; speech tracking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Speech Perception / physiology*