In real-life noisy situations, we can selectively attend to conversations in the presence of irrelevant voices, but neurocognitive mechanisms in such natural listening situations remain largely unexplored. Previous research has shown distributed activity in the mid superior temporal gyrus (STG) and sulcus (STS) while listening to speech and human voices, in the posterior STS and fusiform gyrus when combining auditory, visual and linguistic information, as well as in left-hemisphere temporal and frontal cortical areas during comprehension. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we investigated how selective attention modulates neural responses to naturalistic audiovisual dialogues. Our healthy adult participants (N = 15) selectively attended to video-taped dialogues between a man and woman in the presence of irrelevant continuous speech in the background. We modulated the auditory quality of dialogues with noise vocoding and their visual quality by masking speech-related facial movements. Both increased auditory quality and increased visual quality were associated with bilateral activity enhancements in the STG/STS. In addition, decreased audiovisual stimulus quality elicited enhanced fronto-parietal activity, presumably reflecting increased attentional demands. Finally, attention to the dialogues, in relation to a control task where a fixation cross was attended and the dialogue ignored, yielded enhanced activity in the left planum polare, angular gyrus, the right temporal pole, as well as in the orbitofrontal/ventromedial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate gyrus. Our findings suggest that naturalistic conversations effectively engage participants and reveal brain networks related to social perception in addition to speech and semantic processing networks.
- 515 Psykologia