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Brain Res. 2012 Mar 9;1442:47-54. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Attention-related modulation of auditory-cortex responses to speech sounds during dichotic listening.

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  • 1Division of Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Event-related magnetic fields (ERFs) were measured with magnetoencephalography (MEG) in fifteen healthy right-handed participants listening to sequences of consonant-vowel syllable pairs delivered dichotically (one syllable presented to the left ear and another syllable simultaneously to the right ear). The participants were instructed to press a response button to occurrences of a particular target syllable. In a condition with no other instruction (the non-forced condition, NF), they showed the well-known right-ear advantage (REA), that is, the participants responded more often to target syllables delivered to the right ear than to targets delivered to the left ear. The same was true in the forced-right (FR) condition, where the participants were instructed to attend selectively to the right-ear syllables and respond only to targets among them. In the forced-left (FL) condition, where they were instructed to respond only to left-ear targets, they responded more often to targets in this ear than to targets in the right ear. At 300-500 ms from syllable pair onset, a sustained field (SF) in ERFs to the syllable pairs was stronger in the left auditory cortex than in the right auditory cortex in the NF and FR conditions, while the opposite was true in the FL condition. Thus selective attention during dichotic listening leads to stronger processing of speech sounds in the auditory cortex contralateral to the attended direction. Our results also suggest that the REA observed for dichotic speech may involve a bias of attention to the right side even when there is no instruction to do so. This supports Kinsbourne's (1970) model of attention bias as a general principle of laterality.

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