Poster A1, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Behavioural and electrophysiological measurements of lapses in sustained auditory attention
Alice E Milne1, Daniel I R Bates1, Maria Chait1; 1UCL, London
Top-down attention during noisy auditory scenes boosts perception of task-relevant stimuli, while inhibiting irrelevant signals. However, sustaining attention over extended periods of time is challenging and leads to lapses in attention. Recordings from macaque auditory cortex show that neural alpha-oscillations and entrainment reflect transient changes in attentional state. However, it is unknown how the human neural response to auditory stimuli is affected by attentional lapses. We designed a novel paradigm to study unintentional breaks in sustained attention. Participants were required to track pitch changes in a pure-tone pulse stream. To increase perceptual load, the target stream was flanked by two additional pulse-streams of different pitch and pulse rates, along with attention-capturing high-pitch tone pips and a flickering visual Gabor-patch. Trials were 5-mins long with behavioural responses captured semi-continuously (2-7 seconds). Critically, control trials presented the same auditory and visual stimuli but participants performed a low-attention task, responding to the salient tone pips or Gabor orientation changes. Variations in false alarms, misses and reaction times were used to identify periods when attention to the target stream lapsed. EEG data was acquired using the same paradigm and the behavioural data used to determine the occurrence of attentional lapses. These time periods were then used to characterise the dynamic neural changes that result from variations in attentional states, specifically for alpha-band activity and neural entrainment. We report a novel paradigm that behaviourally captures transient changes in top-down attention, and which can be used to effectively study the neural features of an attentional lapse.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Auditory