Neurophysiology of Attention and Memory Processing

  • Amy Poremba
  • James Bigelow
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 45)


The “standard cocktail party” description of hearing voices in a crowded environment and being able to tune in to a conversation in which the person quickly identifies his or her name being mentioned may seem simple on the surface because people and animals can be conditioned to respond to important signals. However, Cherry’s 1953 cocktail party example is compelling and often used because it invokes many processes ubiquitous to auditory processing, such as frequency encoding and stream segregation to attention and memory. One must remember the sound of his or her own name and be able to separate that specific sound from the other sounds that are translated into background noise in reference to the attended source. Responses to well-known signals, such as names, are the product of experience-induced plasticity located many places along the auditory pathway. This translation into the unique processing of a specific stimulus is an example of long-term memory in the auditory system. This evoked response to names is not only an example of long-term memory in the auditory system, but it also engenders attention to the conversation where it originated, bringing in working and short-term memory as well. The following sections discuss what is known of the cortical processing related to auditory attention and memory.


A1 Auditory cortex Delayed matching-to-sample Habituation Lateral intraparietal area Medial geniculate body Monkey • Neural plasticity Non-human primate Prefrontal cortex Short-term memory Stimulus-specific adaptation Superior colliculus Superior temporal gyrus Working memory 



auditory cortex


best frequency


characteristic frequency


conditioned stimulus


delayed matching-to-sample


dorsal temporal pole


event-related potential


interstimulus interval


light-emitting diode


inferior temporal cortex


local field potential


lateral intraparietal


medial geniculate body


perievent time histogram


prefrontal cortex


peristimulus time


superior colliculus


stimulus onset asynchrony


superior temporal gyrus


spectrotemporal receptive field


temporally orthogonal ripple combinations


thalamic reticular nucleus


ventrolateral PFC


working memory



We thank Amy Opheim, Chi-wing Ng, and Ryan Opheim for assisting with the manuscript preparation. A. Poremba is supported by NIH, NIDCD, DC0007156.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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