Attentional control via synaptic gain mechanisms in auditory streaming

James Rankin, John Rinzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention is a crucial component in sound source segregation allowing auditory objects of interest to be both singled out and held in focus. Our study utilizes a fundamental paradigm for sound source segregation: a sequence of interleaved tones, A and B, of different frequencies that can be heard as a single integrated stream or segregated into two streams (auditory streaming paradigm). We focus on the irregular alternations between integrated and segregated that occur for long presentations, so-called auditory bistability. Psychaoustic experiments demonstrate how attentional control, a listener's intention to experience integrated or segregated, biases perception in favour of different perceptual interpretations. Our data show that this is achieved by prolonging the dominance times of the attended percept and, to a lesser extent, by curtailing the dominance times of the unattended percept, an effect that remains consistent across a range of values for the difference in frequency between A and B. An existing neuromechanistic model describes the neural dynamics of perceptual competition downstream of primary auditory cortex (A1). The model allows us to propose plausible neural mechanisms for attentional control, as linked to different attentional strategies, in a direct comparison with behavioural data. A mechanism based on a percept-specific input gain best accounts for the effects of attentional control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number147720
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Attention
  • Auditory streaming
  • Bistability
  • Computational model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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