Brain areas associated with visual spatial attention display topographic organization during auditory spatial attention

Tzvetan Popov, Bart Gips, Nathan Weisz, Ole Jensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Spatially selective modulation of alpha power (8–14 Hz) is a robust finding in electrophysiological studies of visual attention, and has been recently generalized to auditory spatial attention. This modulation pattern is interpreted as reflecting a top-down mechanism for suppressing distracting input from unattended directions of sound origin. The present study on auditory spatial attention extends this interpretation by demonstrating that alpha power modulation is closely linked to oculomotor action. We designed an auditory paradigm in which participants were required to attend to upcoming sounds from one of 24 loudspeakers arranged in a circular array around the head. Maintaining the location of an auditory cue was associated with a topographically modulated distribution of posterior alpha power resembling the findings known from visual attention. Multivariate analyses allowed the prediction of the sound location in the horizontal plane. Importantly, this prediction was also possible, when derived from signals capturing saccadic activity. A control experiment on auditory spatial attention confirmed that, in absence of any visual/auditory input, lateralization of alpha power is linked to the lateralized direction of gaze. Attending to an auditory target engages oculomotor and visual cortical areas in a topographic manner akin to the retinotopic organization associated with visual attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3478-3489
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number7
Early online date16 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

TP is supported by the Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (SNF) (Grant 105314_207580). NW is supported by Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF): P 31230-B27) & Salzburger Landesregierung (20204-WISS/225/288/4-2021). This work was supported by the following grants to OJ: the James S. McDonnell Foundation Understanding Human Cognition Collaborative Award (grant number 220020448), Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Science (grant number 207550) as well as the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press.


  • Auditory
  • Attention
  • Alpha
  • Spatial orientation
  • EEG
  • Oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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