Exploring the Functional Contribution of Alpha Power Lateralization to Auditory Spatial Attention: An EEG-Neurofeedback-Based Study

Authors: Felix Stockar1, Nataliya Fartdinova2, Tomas Ros3, Basil Preisig1

1Department of Comparative Language Science (UZH)
2University of Zurich
3Departement of Basic Neurosciences (UniGE)

Background: Auditory spatial attention, the ability to selectively focus on specific sounds while ignoring others, is essential for various cognitive tasks and daily activities. Alpha brainwaves, rhythmic oscillations within the frequency range of 8-12 Hz, have been implicated in attentional modulation, particularly in visual perception. However, the functional significance of alpha brainwaves in auditory spatial attention is still underexplored.

Methods: The present study investigated the relationship between alpha activity and auditory spatial attention using EEG neurofeedback. Participants underwent neurofeedback training to increase alpha power in either the left or right parietal cortex, regions associated with auditory spatial attention. The training was delivered through a computer game, and participants received rewards based on successful modulation of alpha power. Auditory probes were presented from different spatial directions (-90, -45, 45 and 90 degree) to test whether the change in alpha lateralization by NF has mediable online effects on auditory processing.

Results: Our results show that neurofeedback training effectively modulates alpha power in the targeted parietal regions. We also observed that ERPs to auditory probes that were processed in the hemisphere where alpha was upregulated/enhanced by neurofeedback were attenuated.

Conclusion: These findings provide initial evidence for the functional contribution of alpha activity to auditory spatial attention. Neurofeedback appears as a promising tool for enhancing auditory spatial attention, potentially offering therapeutic benefits for auditory processing deficits, i.e. hearing loss.