Successful listening crucially depends on intact attentional filters that separate relevant from irrelevant information. Research into their neurobiological implementation has focused on one of two auditory filter strategies: the lateralization of alpha power and selective neural speech tracking. However, the functional interplay of the two neural filter strategies and their potency to index listening success in an aging population remains unclear. Using electroencephalography and a dual-talker task in a representative sample of aging listeners (N=155; age=39textendash80 years), we here demonstrate an often-missed link from single-trial behavioral outcomes back to trial-by-trial changes in neural attentional filtering. First, we observed preserved attentionaltextendash cue-driven modulation of both neural filters across chronological age and hearing levels. Second, neural filter states varied independently of one another, demonstrating a functional trade-off between distinct neurobiological attentional filter mechanisms. Stronger neural speech tracking but not alpha lateralization boosted trial-to-trial behavioral performance. Our results highlight the translational potential of neural speech tracking as an individualized neural marker of adaptive listening behavior.Significance statement Successful listening requires a form of attentional filtering into behaviorally relevant and irrelevant acoustic information. Most previous studies have focused on one of two candidate neural filter strategies: the lateralization of alpha power and selective neural speech tracking. Closing the gap between hitherto separate lines of research, we used electroencephalography and a dual-talker task in a large sample of aging listeners to directly probe the functional relevance of state- and trait-level changes in these neural filter strategies to listening success. We demonstrate the co-existence of largely independent neural filters that establish alternating regimes of strong alpha lateralization versus neural speech tracking. Additionally, our results emphasize the utility of neural speech tracking over alpha lateralization as a potential neural marker of an individual’s adaptive listening behavior.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)