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Neural Correlates of Attention to Human-Made Sounds: An ERP Study

31 Oct 2016

by Katherine Kuhl-Meltzoff Stavropoulos, Leslie J. Carver

Previous neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies have suggested that human made sounds are processed differently from non-human made sounds. Multiple groups have suggested that voices might be processed as “special,” much like faces. Although previous literature has explored neural correlates of voice perception under varying task demands, few studies have examined electrophysiological correlates of attention while directly comparing human made and non-human made sounds. In the present study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to compare attention to human versus non-human made sounds in an oddball paradigm. ERP components of interest were the P300, and fronto-temporal positivity to voices (FTVP), which has been reported in previous investigations of voice versus non-voice stimuli. We found that participants who heard human made sounds as “target” or infrequent stimuli had significantly larger FTPV amplitude, shorter FTPV latency, and larger P300 amplitude than those who heard non-human sounds as “target” stimuli. Our results are in concordance with previous findings that human-made and non-human made sounds are processed differently, and expand upon previous literature by demonstrating increased attention to human versus non-human made sounds, even when the non-human made sounds are ones that require immediate attention in daily life (e.g. a car horn). Heightened attention to human-made sounds is important theoretically and has potential for application in tests of social interest in populations with autism.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in PLOS ONE