What is the nature of multisensory interaction between octavolateralis sub-systems?

Brain Behav Evol. 2002;59(4):162-76. doi: 10.1159/000064904.


The octavolateralis system consists of several submodalities, including the inertial-sensitive inner ear, the pressure-sensitive ear/air cavity complex (when present), and acceleration- and velocity-sensitive components of the lateral line system (canal and superficial neuromasts, respectively). All four of these channels are responsive to many of the same stimulus sources, particularly moving or vibrating objects within a short distance from the receiver. We therefore argue that the octavolateralis system is an excellent model for the study of multisensory interactions. We focus on the possible ways in which these channels may contribute to source localization mechanisms and to the multisensory guidance of behaviors with strong directional components (e.g., predator avoidance, prey capture and mate attraction). Finally, we define four ways in which information from multiple senses might interact. These include fractionation, synergy, accessory stimulation, and complementation. Although evidence for all types of octavolateralis interactions can be found, the primary modes of interaction appear to be complementation and fractionation. For example, the inertial and pressure-sensitive submodalities of the auditory system provide complementary pieces of information about the direction (e.g., left/right) and polarity (advancing or receding) of a moving source. In contrast, the lateral line canal system subserves short-range localization tasks, whereas the auditory system may subserve longer-range detection and localization tasks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Ear / physiology*
  • Sound Localization / physiology*