Is neocortex essentially multisensory?

Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 Jun;10(6):278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.04.008. Epub 2006 May 18.


Although sensory perception and neurobiology are traditionally investigated one modality at a time, real world behaviour and perception are driven by the integration of information from multiple sensory sources. Mounting evidence suggests that the neural underpinnings of multisensory integration extend into early sensory processing. This article examines the notion that neocortical operations are essentially multisensory. We first review what is known about multisensory processing in higher-order association cortices and then discuss recent anatomical and physiological findings in presumptive unimodal sensory areas. The pervasiveness of multisensory influences on all levels of cortical processing compels us to reconsider thinking about neural processing in unisensory terms. Indeed, the multisensory nature of most, possibly all, of the neocortex forces us to abandon the notion that the senses ever operate independently during real-world cognition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*