Wöstmann, Schmitt and Obleser demonstrate that closing the eyes enhances the attentional modulation of neural alpha power but does not affect behavioural performance in two listening tasks
Does closing the eyes enhance our ability to listen attentively? In fact, many of us tend to close their eyes when listening conditions become challenging, for example on the phone. It is thus surprising that there is no published work on the behavioural or neural consequences of closing the eyes during attentive listening. In the present study, we demonstrate that eye closure does not only increase the overall level of absolute alpha power but also the degree to which auditory attention modulates alpha power over time in synchrony with attending to versus ignoring speech. However, our behavioural results provide evidence for the absence of any difference in listening performance with closed versus open eyes. The likely reason for this is that the impact of eye closure on neural oscillatory dynamics does not match alpha power modulations associated with listening performance precisely enough (see figure).
The paper is available as preprint here.