In multi-talker situations individuals adapt behaviorally to the listening challenge mostly with ease, but how do brain neural networks shape this adaptation? We here establish a long-sought link between large-scale neural communications in electrophysiology and behavioral success in the control of attention in challenging listening situations. In an age-varying sample of N = 154 individuals, we find that connectivity between intrinsic neural oscillations extracted from source-reconstructed electroencephalography is top-down regulated during a challenging dual-talker listening task. These dynamics emerge as spatially organized modulations in power-envelope correlations of alpha and low-beta neural oscillations during ~2 seconds intervals most critical for listening behavior relative to resting-state baseline. First, left frontoparietal low-beta connectivity (16-24 Hz) increased during anticipation and processing of spatial-attention cue before speech presentation. Second, posterior alpha connectivity (7-11 Hz) decreased during comprehension of competing speech, particularly around target-word presentation. Connectivity dynamics of these networks were predictive of individual differences in the speed and accuracy of target-word identification, respectively, but proved unconfounded by changes in neural oscillatory activity strength. Successful adaptation to a listening challenge thus latches onto two distinct yet complementary neural systems: a beta-tuned frontoparietal network enabling the flexible adaptation to attentive listening state and an alpha-tuned posterior network supporting attention to speech.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience