Selective attention enhances the auditory 40-Hz transient response in humans

Nature. 1993 Jul 1;364(6432):59-60. doi: 10.1038/364059a0.


Studies of human auditory and somatosensory modalities have shown that there is an oscillatory response in the gamma-band (at about 40 Hz) frequency which is elicited by either steady state or transient stimulation. The auditory 40-Hz response is generated at least partially in the auditory cortex as a result of thalamocortical interaction and may serve perceptual integration and conscious perception. A connection to selective attention has been implied in human and animal studies, although the evidence is inconclusive. Moreover, fundamental differences between the human and animal 40-Hz responses prohibit generalization. Furthermore, most experiments have used steady-state stimulation during which the brain does not regain its resting state between stimuli as it does when transient stimulation is used. Here we study the effect of selective attention on the auditory gamma-band (40-Hz) transient response using subjects listening to tone pips presented in one ear while ignoring a concurrent sequence of tone pips in the other ear. The 40-Hz response was larger when subjects paid attention to stimuli rather than ignored them. This attention effect was most pronounced over the frontal and central scalp areas. Our results demonstrate a physiological correlate of selective attention in the 40-Hz transient response in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reading