Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Attending to a visual stimulus feature, such as color or motion, enhances the processing of that feature in the visual cortex. Moreover, the processing of the attended object's other, unattended, features is also enhanced. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that attentional modulation in the auditory system may also exhibit such feature- and object-specific effects. Specifically, we found that attending to auditory motion increases activity in nonprimary motion-sensitive areas of the auditory cortical “where” pathway. Moreover, activity in these motion-sensitive areas was also increased when attention was directed to a moving rather than a stationary sound object, even when motion was not the attended feature. An analysis of effective connectivity revealed that the motion-specific attentional modulation was brought about by an increase in connectivity between the primary auditory cortex and nonprimary motion-sensitive areas, which, in turn, may have been mediated by the paracingulate cortex in the frontal lobe. The current results indicate that auditory attention can select both objects and features. The finding of feature-based attentional modulation implies that attending to one feature of a sound object does not necessarily entail an exhaustive processing of the object's unattended features.