Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In the visual modality, perceptual demand on a goal-directed task has been shown to modulate the extent to which irrelevant information can be disregarded at a sensory-perceptual stage of processing. In the auditory modality, the effect of perceptual demand on neural representations of task-irrelevant sounds is unclear. We compared simultaneous ERPs and fMRI responses associated with task-irrelevant sounds across parametrically modulated perceptual task demands in a dichotic-listening paradigm. Participants performed a signal detection task in one ear (Attend ear) while ignoring task-irrelevant syllable sounds in the other ear (Ignore ear). Results revealed modulation of syllable processing by auditory perceptual demand in an ROI in middle left superior temporal gyrus and in negative ERP activity 130–230 msec post stimulus onset. Increasing the perceptual demand in the Attend ear was associated with a reduced neural response in both fMRI and ERP to task-irrelevant sounds. These findings are in support of a selection model whereby ongoing perceptual demands modulate task-irrelevant sound processing in auditory cortex.