The cognitive neuroscience of auditory distraction
Background sound can disrupt cognitive performance, even when the person performing that task tries to ignore that sound and even when the sound is unrelated to the task being performed. There are several forms of auditory distraction, each of which may implicate multiple cognitive processes that, in turn, could be related to multiple brain processes. One form of auditory distraction can disrupt the performance upon a memory task that involves holding lists of to-be-remembered digits in memory briefl y, before attempting to report back those to-be-remembered items in the original order. This auditory distraction effect occurs during a retention interval when those items are held in memory and when the sounds are presented. This disruption of immediate memory by auditory distraction could be related to the generation of brain processes in response to the presented sounds, as may be indexed by an auditory ERP protocol. Support for the N1 hypothesis that distraction can involve factors related to the generation of the N1 component of the auditory ERP is offered by the fi nding that increases in token set size produce a disruption of performance alongside an increase in N1. This increase in the disruption of immediate memory by auditory distraction is not associated with MMN, but rather is associated with a spatiotemporally and functionally-distinct increase in N1, which has been shown to occur without the concomitant elicitation of P3a.