Dimension-selective attention as a possible driver of dynamic, context-dependent re-weighting in speech processing

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The contribution of acoustic dimensions to an auditory percept is dynamically adjusted and reweighted based on prior experience about how informative these dimensions are across the long-term and short-term environment. This is especially evident in speech perception, where listeners differentially weight information across multiple acoustic dimensions, and use this information selectively to update expectations about future sounds. The dynamic and selective adjustment of how acoustic input dimensions contribute to perception has made it tempting to conceive of this as a form of non-spatial auditory selective attention. Here, we review several human speech perception phenomena that might be consistent with auditory selective attention although, as of yet, the literature does not definitively support a mechanistic tie. We relate these human perceptual phenomena to illustrative nonhuman animal neurobiological findings that offer informative guideposts in how to test mechanistic connections. We next present a novel empirical approach that can serve as a methodological bridge from human research to animal neurobiological studies. Finally, we describe four preliminary results that demonstrate its utility in advancing understanding of human non-spatial dimension-based auditory selective attention.HighlightsSpeech processing requires continuous reweighting across many acoustic dimensions.This dynamic mapping may reflect the dynamics of auditory attentional mechanisms.Animal neurobiological models can help to determine the putative role for attention.We present results from a new attentional paradigm that ties together human and non-human research.

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