Theta and alpha oscillatory signatures of auditory sensory and cognitive loads during complex listening

Brilliant, Y. Yaar-Soffer, C. S. Herrmann, Y. Henkin, A. Kral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neuronal signatures of sensory and cognitive load provide access to brain activities related to complex listening situations. Sensory and cognitive loads are typically reflected in measures like response time (RT) and event-related potentials (ERPs) components. It's, however, strenuous to distinguish the underlying brain processes solely from these measures. In this study, along with RT- and ERP-analysis, we performed time-frequency analysis and source localization of oscillatory activity in participants performing two different auditory tasks with varying degrees of complexity and related them to sensory and cognitive load. We studied neuronal oscillatory activity in both periods before the behavioral response (pre-response) and after it (post-response). Robust oscillatory activities were found in both periods and were differentially affected by sensory and cognitive load. Oscillatory activity under sensory load was characterized by decrease in pre-response (early) theta activity and increased alpha activity. Oscillatory activity under cognitive load was characterized by increased theta activity, mainly in post-response (late) time. Furthermore, source localization revealed specific brain regions responsible for processing these loads, such as temporal and frontal lobe, cingulate cortex and precuneus. The results provide evidence that in complex listening situations, the brain processes sensory and cognitive loads differently. These neural processes have specific oscillatory signatures and are long lasting, extending beyond the behavioral response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120546
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • EEG
  • Neural oscillations
  • Speech processing
  • Stroop task
  • Time-frequency analysis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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