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  1. Auditory cortical responses to speech obtained by magnetoencephalography (MEG) show robust speech tracking to the speaker's fundamental frequency in the high-gamma band (70–200 Hz), but little is currently known about whether such responses depend on the focus of selective attention. In this study 22 human subjects listened to concurrent, fixed-rate, speech from male and female speakers, and were asked to selectively attend to one speaker at a time, while their neural responses were recorded with MEG. The male speaker's pitch range coincided with the lower range of the high-gamma band, whereas the female speaker's higher pitch range had much less overlap, and only at the upper end of the high-gamma band. Neural responses were analyzed using the temporal response function (TRF) framework. As expected, the responses demonstrate robust speech tracking of the fundamental frequency in the high-gamma band, but only to the male's speech, with a peak latency of ~40 ms. Critically, the response magnitude depends on selective attention: the response to the male speech is significantly greater when male speech is attended than when it is not attended, under acoustically identical conditions. This is a clear demonstration that even very early cortical auditory responses are influenced by top-down, cognitive, neural processing mechanisms. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 14, 2024
  2. Primary auditory cortex is a critical stage in the human auditory pathway, a gateway between subcortical and higher-level cortical areas. Receiving the output of all subcortical processing, it sends its output on to higher-level cortex. Non-invasive physiological recordings of primary auditory cortex using electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), however, may not have sufficient specificity to separate responses generated in primary auditory cortex from those generated in underlying subcortical areas or neighboring cortical areas. This limitation is important for investigations of effects of top-down processing (e.g., selective-attention-based) on primary auditory cortex: higher-level areas are known to be strongly influenced by top-down processes, but subcortical areas are often assumed to perform strictly bottom-up processing. Fortunately, recent advances have made it easier to isolate the neural activity of primary auditory cortex from other areas. In this perspective, we focus on time-locked responses to stimulus features in the high gamma band (70–150 Hz) and with early cortical latency (∼40 ms), intermediate between subcortical and higher-level areas. We review recent findings from physiological studies employing either repeated simple sounds or continuous speech, obtaining either a frequency following response (FFR) or temporal response function (TRF). The potential roles of top-down processing are underscored, and comparisons with invasive intracranial EEG (iEEG) and animal model recordings are made. We argue that MEG studies employing continuous speech stimuli may offer particular benefits, in that only a few minutes of speech generates robust high gamma responses from bilateral primary auditory cortex, and without measurable interference from subcortical or higher-level areas. 
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