Auditory selective attention is vital in natural soundscapes. But, it is unclear how attentional focus on the primary dimension of auditory representation - acoustic frequency - might modulate basic auditory functional topography during active listening. In contrast to visual selective attention, which is supported by motor-mediated optimization of input across saccades and pupil dilation, the primate auditory system has fewer means of differentially sampling the world. This makes spectrally-directed endogenous attention a particularly crucial aspect of auditory attention. Using a novel functional paradigm combined with quantitative MRI, we establish in male and female listeners that human frequency-band-selective attention drives activation in both myeloarchitectonically-estimated auditory core, and across the majority of tonotopically-mapped non-primary auditory cortex. The attentionally-driven best-frequency maps show strong concordance with sensory-driven maps in the same subjects across much of the temporal plane, with poor concordance in areas outside traditional auditory cortex. There is significantly greater activation across most of auditory cortex when best frequency is attended, versus ignored; the same regions do not show this enhancement when attending to the least-preferred frequency band. Finally, the results demonstrate that there is spatial correspondence between the degree of myelination and the strength of the tonotopic signal across a number of regions in auditory cortex. Strong frequency preferences across tonotopically-mapped auditory cortex spatially correlate with R1-estimated myeloarchitecture, indicating shared functional and anatomical organization that may underlie intrinsic auditory regionalization.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTPerception is an active process especially sensitive to attentional state. Listeners direct auditory attention to track a violin's melody within an ensemble performance, or to follow a voice in a crowded cafe. Although diverse pathologies reduce quality of life by impacting such spectrally-directed auditory attention, its neurobiological bases are unclear. We demonstrate that human primary and non-primary auditory cortical activation is modulated by spectrally-directed attention in a manner that recapitulates its tonotopic sensory organization. Further, the graded activation profiles evoked by single frequency bands are correlated with attentionally-driven activation when these bands are presented in complex soundscapes. Finally, we observe a strong concordance in the degree of cortical myelination and the strength of tonotopic activation across several auditory cortical regions.
Dick, F. K., Lehet, M. I., Callaghan, M. F., Keller, T. A., Sereno, M. I., & Holt, L. L. (2017). Extensive Tonotopic Mapping across Auditory Cortex Is Recapitulated by Spectrally Directed Attention and Systematically Related to Cortical Myeloarchitecture. The Journal of Neuroscience, 37(50), 12187–12201. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.1436-17.2017