Selective Attention to Visual Stimuli Reduces Cochlear Sensitivity in Chinchillas
Journal of Neuroscience
It is generally accepted that during periods of attention to specific stimuli there are changes in the neural activity of central auditory structures; however, it is controversial whether attention can modulate auditory responses at the cochlear level. Several studies performed in animals as well as in humans have attempted to find a modulation of cochlear responses during visual attention with contradictory results. Here, we have appraised cochlear sensitivity in behaving chinchillas by
... ng, with a chronically implanted roundwindow electrode, sound-evoked auditory-nerve compound action potentials and cochlear microphonics, a measure of outer hair cell function, during selective attention to visual stimuli. Chinchillas were trained in a visual discrimination or in an auditory frequency discrimination two-choice task. We found a significant decrease of cochlear sensitivity during the period of attention to visual stimuli in the animals performing the visual discrimination task, but not in those performing the auditory task, demonstrating that this physiological effect is related to selective attention to visual stimuli rather than to an increment in arousal level. Furthermore, the magnitude of the cochlear-sensitivity reductions increased in sessions performed with shorter target-light durations (4 -0.5 s), suggesting that this effect is stronger for higher attentional demands of the task. These results demonstrate that afferent auditory activity is modulated by selective attention as early as at sensory transduction, possibly through activation of olivocochlear efferent fibers.