Some investigations into non-passive listening

A. R. Palmer*, D. A. Hall, C. Sumner, D. J. K. Barrett, S. Jones, K. Nakamoto, D. R. Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Our knowledge of the function of the auditory nervous system is based upon a wealth of data obtained, for the most part, in anaesthetised animals. More recently, it has been generally acknowledged that factors such as attention profoundly modulate the activity of sensory systems and this can take place at many levels of processing. Imaging studies, in particular, have revealed the greater activation of auditory areas and areas outside of sensory processing areas when attending to a stimulus. We present here a brief review of the consequences of such non-passive listening and go on to describe some of the experiments we are conducting to investigate them. In imaging studies, using fMRI, we can demonstrate the activation of attention networks that are non-specific to the sensory modality as well as greater and different activation of the areas of the supra-temporal plane that includes primary and secondary auditory areas. The profuse descending connections of the auditory system seem likely to be part of the mechanisms subserving attention to sound. These are generally thought to be largely inactivated by anaesthesia. However, we have been able to demonstrate that even in an anaesthetised preparation, removing the descending control from the cortex leads to quite profound changes in the temporal patterns of activation by sounds in thalamus and inferior colliculus. Some of these effects seem to be specific to the ear of stimulation and affect interaural processing. To bridge these observations we are developing an awake behaving preparation involving freely moving animals in which it will be possible to investigate the effects of consciousness (by contrasting awake and anaesthetized), passive and active listening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-157
Number of pages10
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • Attention
  • Auditory cortex
  • Corticofugal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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