PhD Scientific Days 2024

Budapest, 9-10 July 2024

Mental Health Sciences I.

Cognitive Control and Attention Selection During an Auditory Target Detection Task


Blanka Vojnits1, Tárek Magyar1, Dr. Róbert Bódizs1, Dr. Orsolya Szalárdy1
1: Semmelweis University, Institute of Behavioural Science, Budapest, Hungary,

Text of the abstract


An essential requirement of efficient auditory perception in complex acoustic environments involves the segregation of the acoustic foreground from the background. This process reveals the adaptation mechanisms of the brain and the optimization of the processing of predictable events in response to the target stimulus. At the same time, distractor stimuli must be inhibited. In this research, we investigated the acoustic foreground-background processing in school-age children.

Aims: Auditory figure-background segregation refers the forming of distinct perceptual objects within a stochastic background of sounds based on a spectro-temporal regularity consisting of synchronous sounds. This process provides us with the opportunity of differential testing the “automatic” segregation by figure-change detection and top-down attentional-control processes by background-change detection. Task-related ERPs were assessed and compared across figure and background trials, and target-distractor sounds in an auditory target detection task.

Methods: EEG was recorded form 11 healthy school-age children (N=11, Age range: 8-12 years, Mean age: 9.09 years) during an auditory target detection task. The children were presented with series of complex sounds with or without a spectro-temporal regularity based on the paradigm of Tóth et al., (2017). Intensity changes within a complex sound pattern served as target events. Participants were asked to attend to the figure deviants or the background deviants and press a button as soon as they detect the deviant sounds. EPRs were extracted from the Cz electrode for the mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3 components. Statistical analysis was based on repeated-measures ANOVA with the factors FIGURE-BACKGROUND and TARGET-DISTRACTOR.

Results: MMN and P3 were elicited by target events but not by distractors, as indicated by a significant main effect of Target-Distractor (MNN: F(1, 10=8.064, p=.018, P3: F(1,10)=10.772, p=.008).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that neural mechanisms of automatic figure-background segregation are operative in children. Moreover, evidence for an efficient inhibition function targeting the irrelevant distractors was revealed in this age group.

Funding: The study was supported by STIA-OTKA-2020 (61831Z0100, awarded to Orsolya Szalárdy by the Semmelweis University).