Attention induces synchronicity in neuronal firing for the encoding of a given stimulus at the exclusion of others. Recently, we reported decreased variability in scalp-recorded cortical evoked potentials to attended compared with ignored speech in adults. Here we aimed to determine the developmental time course for this neural index of auditory attention. We compared cortical auditory-evoked variability with attention across three age groups: preschoolers, school-aged children and young adults. Results reveal an increased impact of selective auditory attention on cortical response variability with development. Although all three age groups have equivalent response variability to attended speech, only school-aged children and adults have a distinction between attend and ignore conditions. Preschoolers, on the other hand, demonstrate no impact of attention on cortical responses, which we argue reflects the gradual emergence of attention within this age range. Outcomes are interpreted in the context of the behavioral relevance of cortical response variability and its potential to serve as a developmental index of cognitive skill.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience