Eye movements during auditory attention predict individual differences in dorsal attention network activity

Rodrigo M. Braga*, Richard Z. Fu, Barry M. Seemungal, Richard J.S. Wise, Robert Leech

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The neural mechanisms supporting auditory attention are not fully understood. A dorsal frontoparietal network of brain regions is thought to mediate the spatial orienting of attention across all sensory modalities. Key parts of this network, the frontal eye fields (FEF) and the superior parietal lobes (SPL), contain retinotopic maps and elicit saccades when stimulated. This suggests that their recruitment during auditory attention might reflect crossmodal oculomotor processes; however this has not been confirmed experimentally. Here we investigate whether task-evoked eye movements during an auditory task can predict the magnitude of activity within the dorsal frontoparietal network. A spatial and non-spatial listening task was used with on-line eye-tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). No visual stimuli or cues were used. The auditory task elicited systematic eye movements, with saccade rate and gaze position predicting attentional engagement and the cued sound location, respectively. Activity associated with these separate aspects of evoked eye-movements dissociated between the SPL and FEF. However these observed eye movements could not account for all the activation in the frontoparietal network. Our results suggest that the recruitment of the SPL and FEF during attentive listening reflects, at least partly, overt crossmodal oculomotor processes during non-visual attention. Further work is needed to establish whether the network's remaining contribution to auditory attention is through covert crossmodal processes, or is directly involved in the manipulation of auditory information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY2016
StatePublished - May 9 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory attention
  • Dorsal attention network
  • Eye movements
  • Listening
  • Saccades
  • Spatial attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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