Auditory spatial attention representations in the human cerebral cortex

Lingqiang Kong, Boston University
Samantha W. Michalka, Boston University
Maya L. Rosen, Boston University
Summer L. Sheremata, University of California, Berkeley
Jascha D. Swisher, Vanderbilt University
Barbara G. Shinn-Cunningham, Boston University
David C. Somers, Boston University


Auditory spatial attention serves important functions in auditory source separation and selection. Although auditory spatial attention mechanisms have been generally investigated, the neural substrates encoding spatial information acted on by attention have not been identified in the human neocortex. We performed functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments to identify cortical regions that support auditory spatial attention and to test 2 hypotheses regarding the coding of auditory spatial attention: 1) auditory spatial attention might recruit the visuospatial maps of the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) to create multimodal spatial attention maps; 2) auditory spatial information might be encoded without explicit cortical maps. We mapped visuotopic IPS regions in individual subjects and measured auditory spatial attention effects within these regions of interest. Contrary to the multimodal map hypothesis, we observed that auditory spatial attentional modulations spared the visuotopic maps of IPS; the parietal regions activated by auditory attention lacked map structure. However, multivoxel pattern analysis revealed that the superior temporal gyrus and the supramarginal gyrus contained significant information about the direction of spatial attention. These findings support the hypothesis that auditory spatial information is coded without a cortical map representation. Our findings suggest that audiospatial and visuospatial attention utilize distinctly different spatial coding schemes. © 2012 The Author.