Top-down controlled and bottom-up triggered orienting of auditory attention to pitch activate overlapping brain networks

Kimmo Alho, Juha Salmi, Sonja Koistinen, Oili Salonen, Teemu Rinne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


A number of previous studies have suggested segregated networks of brain areas for top-down controlled and bottom-up triggered orienting of visual attention. However, the corresponding networks involved in auditory attention remain less studied. Our participants attended selectively to a tone stream with either a lower pitch or higher pitch in order to respond to infrequent changes in duration of attended tones. The participants were also required to shift their attention from one stream to the other when guided by a visual arrow cue. In addition to these top-down controlled cued attention shifts, infrequent task-irrelevant louder tones occurred in both streams to trigger attention in a bottom-up manner. Both cued shifts and louder tones were associated with enhanced activity in the superior temporal gyrus and sulcus, temporo-parietal junction, superior parietal lobule, inferior and middle frontal gyri, frontal eye field, supplementary motor area, and anterior cingulate gyrus. Thus, the present findings suggest that in the auditory modality, unlike in vision, top-down controlled and bottom-up triggered attention activates largely the same cortical networks. Comparison of the present results with our previous results from a similar experiment on spatial auditory attention suggests that fronto-parietal networks of attention to location or pitch overlap substantially. However, the auditory areas in the anterior superior temporal cortex might have a more important role in attention to the pitch than location of sounds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Research
Pages (from-to)136–145
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology
  • 3112 Neurosciences

Cite this