Auditory Selective Attention Modulates Activation of Human Inferior Colliculus

Teemu Rinne, Marja H. Balk, Sonja Koistinen, Taina Autti, Kimmo Alho, Mikko Sams


Selective auditory attention powerfully modulates neural activity in the human auditory cortex (AC). In contrast, the role of attention in subcortical auditory processing is not well established. Here, we used functional MRI (fMRI) to examine activation of the human inferior colliculus (IC) during strictly controlled auditory attention tasks. The IC is an obligatory midbrain nucleus of the ascending auditory pathway with diverse internal and external connections. The IC also receives a massive descending projection from the AC, suggesting that cortical processes affect IC operations. In this study, 21 subjects selectively attended to left-ear or right-ear sounds and ignored sounds delivered to the other ear. IC activations depended on the direction of attention, indicating that auditory processing in the human IC is not only determined by acoustic input but also by the current behavioral goals.

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