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Psychologisches Institut Methoden der Plastizitätsforschung

New publication by Tzvetan Popov et al. in Cerebral Cortex: «Brain areas associated with visual spatial attention display topographic organization during auditory spatial attention »


Spatially selective modulation of alpha power (8–14 Hz) is a robust finding in electrophysiological studies of visual attention, and has been recently generalized to auditory spatial attention. This modulation pattern is interpreted as reflecting a top-down mechanism for suppressing distracting input from unattended directions of sound origin. The present study on auditory spatial attention extends this interpretation by demonstrating that alpha power modulation is closely linked to oculomotor action. We designed an auditory paradigm in which participants were required to attend to upcoming sounds from one of 24 loudspeakers arranged in a circular array around the head. Maintaining the location of an auditory cue was associated with a topographically modulated distribution of posterior alpha power resembling the findings known from visual attention. Multivariate analyses allowed the prediction of the sound location in the horizontal plane. Importantly, this prediction was also possible, when derived from signals capturing saccadic activity. A control experiment on auditory spatial attention confirmed that, in absence of any visual/auditory input, lateralization of alpha power is linked to the lateralized direction of gaze. Attending to an auditory target engages oculomotor and visual cortical areas in a topographic manner akin to the retinotopic organization associated with visual attention.