Cognitive resources are distributed among the entire auditory landscape in auditory scene analysis

Renee M. Symonds, Juin W. Zhou, Sally L. Cole, Kelin M. Brace, Elyse S. Sussman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Although attention has been shown to enhance neural representations of selected inputs, the fate of unselected background sounds is still debated. The goal of the current study was to understand how processing resources are distributed among attended and unattended sounds during auditory scene analysis. We used a three-stream paradigm with four acoustic features uniquely defining each sound stream (frequency, envelope shape, spatial location, tone quality). We manipulated task load by having participants perform a difficult auditory task and an easy movie-viewing task with the same set of sounds in separate conditions. The mismatch negativity (MMN) component of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) was measured to evaluate sound processing in both conditions. We found no effect of task demands on unattended sound processing: MMNs were elicited by unattended deviants during both low- and high-load task conditions. A key factor of this result was the use of unique tone feature combinations to distinguish each of the three sound streams, strengthening the segregation of streams. In the auditory task, the P3b component demonstrates a two-stage process of target evaluation. Thus, these results, in conjunction with results of previous studies, suggest that stimulus-driven factors that strengthen stream segregation can free up processing capacity for higher-level analyses. The results illustrate the interactive nature of top-down and stimulus-driven processes in stream formation, supporting a distributive theory of attention that balances the strength of the bottom-up input with perceptual goals in analyzing the auditory scene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13487
JournalPsychophysiology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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Keywords

  • attention
  • auditory scene analysis
  • cognitive load
  • ERPs
  • mismatch negativity (MMN)
  • P3b component

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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