Spatiotemporal dynamics of auditory attention synchronize with speech

Malte Wöstmann*, Björn Herrmann, Burkhard Maess, Jonas Obleser

*Corresponding author for this work
16 Citations (Scopus)


Attention plays a fundamental role in selectively processing stimuli in our environment despite distraction. Spatial attention induces increasing and decreasing power of neural alpha oscillations (8-12 Hz) in brain regions ipsilateral and contralateral to the locus of attention, respectively. This study tested whether the hemispheric lateralization of alpha power codes not just the spatial location but also the temporal structure of the stimulus. Participants attended to spoken digits presented to one ear and ignored tightly synchronized distracting digits presented to the other ear. In the magnetoencephalogram, spatial attention induced lateralization of alpha power in parietal, but notably also in auditory cortical regions. This alpha power lateralization was not maintained steadily but fluctuated in synchrony with the speech rate and lagged the time course of low-frequency (1-5 Hz) sensory synchronization. Higher amplitude of alpha power modulation at the speech rate was predictive of a listener's enhanced performance of stream-specific speech comprehension. Our findings demonstrate that alpha power lateralization is modulated in tune with the sensory input and acts as a spatiotemporal filter controlling the read-out of sensory content.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
Pages (from-to)3873-3878
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 05.04.2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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