Target enhancement but not distractor suppression in auditory neural tracking during continuous speech

Martin Orf*, Malte Wöstmann, Ronny Hannemann, Jonas Obleser

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Selective attention modulates the neural tracking of speech in auditory cortical regions. It is unclear whether this attentional modulation is dominated by enhanced target tracking, or suppression of distraction. To settle this long-standing debate, we employed an augmented electroencephalography (EEG) speech-tracking paradigm with target, distractor, and neutral streams. Concurrent target speech and distractor (i.e., sometimes relevant) speech were juxtaposed with a third, never task-relevant speech stream serving as neutral baseline. Listeners had to detect short target repeats and committed more false alarms originating from the distractor than from the neutral stream. Speech tracking revealed target enhancement but no distractor suppression below the neutral baseline. Speech tracking of the target (not distractor or neutral speech) explained single-trial accuracy in repeat detection. In sum, the enhanced neural representation of target speech is specific to processes of attentional gain for behaviorally relevant target speech rather than neural suppression of distraction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106849
Journal iScience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 16.06.2023

Research Areas and Centers

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

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