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      A New Test of Attention in Listening (TAIL) Predicts Auditory Performance

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          Attention modulates auditory perception, but there are currently no simple tests that specifically quantify this modulation. To fill the gap, we developed a new, easy-to-use test of attention in listening (TAIL) based on reaction time. On each trial, two clearly audible tones were presented sequentially, either at the same or different ears. The frequency of the tones was also either the same or different (by at least two critical bands). When the task required same/different frequency judgments, presentation at the same ear significantly speeded responses and reduced errors. A same/different ear (location) judgment was likewise facilitated by keeping tone frequency constant. Perception was thus influenced by involuntary orienting of attention along the task-irrelevant dimension. When information in the two stimulus dimensions were congruent (same-frequency same-ear, or different-frequency different-ear), response was faster and more accurate than when they were incongruent (same-frequency different-ear, or different-frequency same-ear), suggesting the involvement of executive control to resolve conflicts. In total, the TAIL yielded five independent outcome measures: (1) baseline reaction time, indicating information processing efficiency, (2) involuntary orienting of attention to frequency and (3) location, and (4) conflict resolution for frequency and (5) location. Processing efficiency and conflict resolution accounted for up to 45% of individual variances in the low- and high-threshold variants of three psychoacoustic tasks assessing temporal and spectral processing. Involuntary orientation of attention to the irrelevant dimension did not correlate with perceptual performance on these tasks. Given that TAIL measures are unlikely to be limited by perceptual sensitivity, we suggest that the correlations reflect modulation of perceptual performance by attention. The TAIL thus has the power to identify and separate contributions of different components of attention to auditory perception.

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          Most cited references 27

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            A neglected question regarding cognitive control is how control processes might detect situations calling for their involvement. The authors propose here that the demand for control may be evaluated in part by monitoring for conflicts in information processing. This hypothesis is supported by data concerning the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain area involved in cognitive control, which also appears to respond to the occurrence of conflict. The present article reports two computational modeling studies, serving to articulate the conflict monitoring hypothesis and examine its implications. The first study tests the sufficiency of the hypothesis to account for brain activation data, applying a measure of conflict to existing models of tasks shown to engage the anterior cingulate. The second study implements a feedback loop connecting conflict monitoring to cognitive control, using this to simulate a number of important behavioral phenomena.
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              A dual-networks architecture of top-down control.

              Complex systems ensure resilience through multiple controllers acting at rapid and slower timescales. The need for efficient information flow through complex systems encourages small-world network structures. On the basis of these principles, a group of regions associated with top-down control was examined. Functional magnetic resonance imaging showed that each region had a specific combination of control signals; resting-state functional connectivity grouped the regions into distinct 'fronto-parietal' and 'cingulo-opercular' components. The fronto-parietal component seems to initiate and adjust control; the cingulo-opercular component provides stable 'set-maintenance' over entire task epochs. Graph analysis showed dense local connections within components and weaker 'long-range' connections between components, suggesting a small-world architecture. The control systems of the brain seem to embody the principles of complex systems, encouraging resilient performance.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                31 December 2012
                : 7
                : 12
                [1 ]Medical Research Council - Institute of Hearing Research, Nottingham, United Kingdom
                [2 ]National Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
                UNLV, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: YXZ. Performed the experiments: YXZ. Analyzed the data: YXZ. Wrote the paper: YXZ JGB DRM SA.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 12
                This study was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), United Kingdom, through intramural funding to the MRC Institute of Hearing Research. All authors were MRC employees at the time the research was conducted. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Cognitive Neuroscience
                Decision Making
                Sensory Perception
                Sensory Systems
                Auditory System
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Attention (Behavior)
                Human Performance
                Experimental Psychology
                Sensory Perception



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