Event-related potential study of attention capture by affective sounds.Neuroreport. 2007 Feb 12; 18(3):245-8.N
Affective pictures trigger attentional responses in humans but very little is known about the processing of affective environmental sounds. Here, we used an oddball event-related potential paradigm to determine the saliency of unpleasant sounds presented among affectively neutral sounds. Participants performed a one-back task while listening to pseudo-randomized sound sequences comprising 70% neutral sounds, 15% unpleasant sounds of matched peak intensity, and 15% louder neutral sounds. Louder neutral sounds elicited a larger N1 component and a significant P3a variation with a central distribution. Unpleasant sounds did not affect early components but elicited a significant frontocentral P3a modulation. We conclude that affective environmental sounds spontaneously capture human attention but fail to modulate early perceptual processing when sound peak intensity is controlled.