2007 Toward the mechanisms of auditory attention Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory One begins by studying the transformation of sound into spikes at the auditory nerve, and then follow the neural representation of the sound through the various subcortical sta- tions. Eventually one would have to grapple with the more complex representations necessary for the computationally challenging pattern recognition needed to recognize words; presumably these are computations that begin at the level of the auditory cortex and continue at the level of higher cortical areas specialized for language to study how sound is represented at each stage of the processing hierarchy, without regard to the behavioral or cognitive context. An analogous research paradigm dominated the study of visual cortex for several decades. Attentional state can play a crucial role in shaping the response characteristics of single neurons. Much of what has been learned about attention has been made using human and animal models, but little is known about the cellular and synaptic mechanisms by which attentional modulation of neuronal responses occurs. The use of rodent experimental models allows us to exploit the full armamentarium of modern cellular and molecular neuroscience techniques.