Brain dynamics of distractibility: interaction between top-down and bottom-up mechanisms of auditory attention

Brain Topography
Aurélie Bidet-CauletOlivier Bertrand

Abstract

Attention improves the processing of specific information while other stimuli are disregarded. A good balance between bottom-up (attentional capture by unexpected salient stimuli) and top-down (selection of relevant information) mechanisms is crucial to be both task-efficient and aware of our environment. Only few studies have explored how an isolated unexpected task-irrelevant stimulus outside the attention focus can disturb the top-down attention mechanisms necessary to the good performance of the ongoing task, and how these top-down mechanisms can modulate the bottom-up mechanisms of attentional capture triggered by an unexpected event. We recorded scalp electroencephalography in 18 young adults performing a new paradigm measuring distractibility and assessing both bottom-up and top-down attention mechanisms, at the same time. Increasing task load in top-down attention was found to reduce early processing of the distracting sound, but not bottom-up attentional capture mechanisms nor the behavioral distraction cost in reaction time. Moreover, the impact of bottom-up attentional capture by distracting sounds on target processing was revealed as a delayed latency of the N100 sensory response to target sounds mirroring increased...Continue Reading

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