Auditory Spatial Coding Flexibly Recruits Anterior, but Not Posterior, Visuotopic Parietal Cortex

Samantha W. Michalka, Graduate Program for Neuroscience
Maya L. Rosen, Boston University
Lingqiang Kong, Massachusetts General Hospital
Barbara G. Shinn-Cunningham, Biomedical Engineering
David C. Somers, Graduate Program for Neuroscience


Audition and vision both convey spatial information about the environment, but much less is known about mechanisms of auditory spatial cognition than visual spatial cognition. Human cortex contains >20 visuospatial map representations but no reported auditory spatial maps. The intraparietal sulcus (IPS) contains several of these visuospatial maps, which support visuospatial attention and short-term memory (STM). Neuroimaging studies also demonstrate that parietal cortex is activated during auditory spatial attention and working memory tasks, but prior work has not demonstrated that auditory activation occurs within visual spatial maps in parietal cortex. Here, we report both cognitive and anatomical distinctions in the auditory recruitment of visuotopically mapped regions within the superior parietal lobule. An auditory spatial STM task recruited anterior visuotopic maps (IPS2-4, SPL1), but an auditory temporal STM task with equivalent stimuli failed to drive these regions significantly. Behavioral and eye-tracking measures rule out task difficulty and eye movement explanations. Neither auditory task recruited posterior regions IPS0 or IPS1, which appear to be exclusively visual. These findings support the hypothesis of multisensory spatial processing in the anterior, but not posterior, superior parietal lobule and demonstrate that recruitment of these maps depends on auditory task demands.