Neural attentional-filter mechanisms of listening success in middle-aged and older individuals

Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 26;12(1):4533. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24771-9.


Successful listening crucially depends on intact attentional filters that separate relevant from irrelevant information. Research into their neurobiological implementation has focused on two potential auditory filter strategies: the lateralization of alpha power and selective neural speech tracking. However, the functional interplay of the two neural filter strategies and their potency to index listening success in an ageing population remains unclear. Using electroencephalography and a dual-talker task in a representative sample of listeners (N = 155; age=39-80 years), we here demonstrate an often-missed link from single-trial behavioural outcomes back to trial-by-trial changes in neural attentional filtering. First, we observe preserved attentional-cue-driven modulation of both neural filters across chronological age and hearing levels. Second, neural filter states vary independently of one another, demonstrating complementary neurobiological solutions of spatial selective attention. Stronger neural speech tracking but not alpha lateralization boosts trial-to-trial behavioural performance. Our results highlight the translational potential of neural speech tracking as an individualized neural marker of adaptive listening behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology