Cortical processing of location changes in a “cocktail-party” situation: Spatial oddball effects on electrophysiological correlates of auditory selective attention

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Neural mechanisms of selectively attending to a sound source of interest in a simulated “cocktail-party” situation, composed of multiple competing sources, were investigated using event-related potentials in combination with a spatial oddball design. Subjects either detected rare spatial deviants in a series of standard sounds or passively listened. Targets either appeared in isolation or in the presence of two distractor sound sources at different locations (“cocktail-party” condition). Deviant-minus-standard difference potentials revealed mismatch negativity, P3a, and P3b. However, mainly the P3b was modulated by spatial conditions of stimulation, with lower amplitude for “cocktail-party”, than single, sounds. In the active condition, cortical source localization revealed two distinct foci of maximum differences in electrical activity for the contrast of single vs. “cocktail-party” sounds: the right inferior frontal junction and the right anterior superior parietal lobule. These areas may be specifically involved in processes associated with selective attention in a “cocktail-party” situation.HIGHLIGHTSAn auditory spatial oddball design revealed ERP correlates of selective attention.The deviance-related P3b subcomponent was modulated by spatial stimulus features.The P3b was reduced with multiple, compared with single target sounds.Related sources were found in right inferior frontal and superior parietal regions.Results argue in favor of a multimodal spatial attention network in human cortex.

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