• Attention;
  • Auditory periphery;
  • Cochlea;
  • Human;
  • Olivocochlear efferents;
  • Otoacoustic emissions

The mammalian auditory system contains descending pathways that originate in the cortex and relay at various intermediate levels before reaching the peripheral sensory organ of Corti. The last link in this chain consists of the olivocochlear bundle. The activity of this bundle can be measured through otoacoustic emissions, which are acoustic signatures of the cochlear biomechanical activity. In the present study, it was hypothesized that frequency-specific activation of the olivocochlear bundle in the contralateral ear would show up as frequency-specific variations in otoacoustic emission amplitude in the ipsilateral ear. Two groups of young adult subjects participated in this experiment. Evoked otoacoustic emissions were recorded in the ipsilateral ear at two test frequencies (1 and 2 kHz). Subjects had to detect probe tones at a given frequency in background noise in the contralateral ear. Larger efferent activation was measured at test frequencies on which attention is focused. This result provides evidence for an influence of attention on the auditory periphery via descending projections.