Friday, June 18, 2010

Is that my Mobile ringing? Rapid brain processing

Roye et al. show that top-down frontal-parietal attentional mechanisms prime even the earliest stages of our auditory pathways to be especially sensitive to personally significant sounds:
Anecdotal reports and also empirical observations suggest a preferential processing of personally significant sounds. The utterance of one's own name, the ringing of one's own telephone, or the like appear to be especially effective for capturing attention. However, there is a lack of knowledge about the time course and functional neuroanatomy of the voluntary and the involuntary detection of personally significant sounds. To address this issue, we applied an active and a passive listening paradigm, in which male and female human participants were presented with the SMS ringtone of their own mobile and other's ringtones, respectively. Enhanced evoked oscillatory activity in the 35–75 Hz band for one's own ringtone shows that the brain distinguishes complex personally significant and nonsignificant sounds, starting as early as 40 ms after sound onset. While in animals it has been reported that the primary auditory cortex accounts for acoustic experience-based memory matching processes, results from the present study suggest that in humans these processes are not confined to sensory processing areas. In particular, we found a coactivation of left auditory areas and left frontal gyri during passive listening. Active listening evoked additional involvement of sensory processing areas in the right hemisphere. This supports the idea that top-down mechanisms affect stimulus representations even at the level of sensory cortices. Furthermore, active detection of sounds additionally activated the superior parietal lobe supporting the existence of a frontoparietal network of selective attention.

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