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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1999 Oct 25;8(3):213-27.

Spatial attention to central and peripheral auditory stimuli as indexed by event-related potentials.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences 0608, School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Drive, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0608, USA. wat@sdep1.ucsd.edu


Young adult subjects attended selectively to brief noise bursts delivered in free-field via central and peripheral arrays of four loudspeakers each that were arranged along a semi-circle extending from the midline to 90 degrees right of center. Frequent "standard" stimuli (90%) and infrequent "target/deviant" stimuli (10%) of increased bandwidth were delivered at a fast rate in random order and equiprobably from all eight speakers. In separate runs, the subject's task was to selectively attend to the center or rightmost speaker, and to press a button to the infrequent "target" stimuli occurring at the designated (spatial) location. Behavioral detection rates and concurrently recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) indicated that auditory attention was deployed as a finely tuned gradient around the attended source. The attentional gradients were steeper for the central than the peripheral array, indicating that attention can be more sharply focused upon sound sources directly in front of the listener. The ERP data suggested that selection for location is accomplished in two distinct stages, with an initial broadly tuned filtering, followed by a more narrowly focused selection of attended-location deviants.

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