Auditory attention refers to their ability of an individual to attend and recognise specific auditory signals. Using this attentional process, the auditory system is able to discriminate competing signals in the presence of background noise. However, the neurocognitive mechanism underlying this process is poorly understood.
In our lab, we are presently using psychophysical methods to study the neurophysiological basis of the auditory attentional process.
Studies have suggested that auditory attention may be partly influenced by the frequency of the sound stimulus (Greenberg and Larkin 1968, Scharf 1996). It has been shown that the detection of an acoustic stimulus with a certain frequency is enhanced when the stimulus is preceded by another sound of similar frequency, a process know as cuing. Besides improving the detection of signals with similar frequencies (on-cue frequencies), cuing also suppresses the detection of signals that differ from the cue frequency (off-cue frequencies). This effect is known as the auditory attentional filter.
Currently we are investigating the mechanism underlying the cuing effect by studying the auditory attentional filters in normal hearing subjects in quiet as well as in noisy conditions. In addition, the involvement of the efferent system in the attentional filter is being assessed using contralateral noise presentation which in known to activate the auditory efferents that terminate on the opposite ear.