On the use of superadditivity as a metric for characterizing multisensory integration in functional neuroimaging studies

Exp Brain Res. 2005 Oct;166(3-4):289-97. doi: 10.1007/s00221-005-2370-2. Epub 2005 Jun 30.


A growing number of brain imaging studies are being undertaken in order to better understand the contributions of multisensory processes to human behavior and perception. Many of these studies are designed on the basis of the physiological findings from single neurons in animal models, which have shown that multisensory neurons have the capacity for integrating their different sensory inputs and give rise to a product that differs significantly from either of the unisensory responses. At certain points these multisensory interactions can be superadditive, resulting in a neural response that exceeds the sum of the unisensory responses. Because of the difficulties inherent in interpreting the results of imaging large neuronal populations, superadditivity has been put forth as a stringent criterion for identifying potential sites of multisensory integration. In the present manuscript we discuss issues related to using the superadditive model in human brain imaging studies, focusing on population responses to multisensory stimuli and the relationship between single neuron measures and functional brain imaging measures. We suggest that the results of brain imaging studies be interpreted with caution in regards to multisensory integration. Future directions for imaging multisensory integration are discussed in light of the ideas presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Population
  • Sensation / physiology*


  • Oxygen