Mapping feature-sensitivity and attentional modulation in human auditory cortex with functional magnetic resonance imaging
Feature-specific enhancement refers to the process by which selectively attending to a particular stimulus feature specifically increases the response in the same region of the brain that codes that stimulus property. Whereas there are many demonstrations of this mechanism in the visual system, the evidence is less clear in the auditory system. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined this process for two complex sound features, namely frequency modulation (FM) and spatial motion. The experimental design enabled us to investigate whether selectively attending to FM and spatial motion enhanced activity in those auditory cortical areas that were sensitive to the two features. To control for attentional effort, the difficulty of the target-detection tasks was matched as closely as possible within listeners. Locations of FM-related and motion-related activation were broadly compatible with previous research. The results also confirmed a general enhancement across the auditory cortex when either feature was being attended to, as compared with passive listening. The feature-specific effects of selective attention revealed the novel finding of enhancement for the nonspatial (FM) feature, but not for the spatial (motion) feature. However, attention to spatial features also recruited several areas outside the auditory cortex. Further analyses led us to conclude that feature-specific effects of selective attention are not statistically robust, and appear to be sensitive to the choice of fMRI experimental design and localizer contrast.
from the European Journal of Neuroscience