Sound facilitates visual learning

Curr Biol. 2006 Jul 25;16(14):1422-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.048.


Numerous studies show that practice can result in performance improvements on low-level visual perceptual tasks [1-5]. However, such learning is characteristically difficult and slow, requiring many days of training [6-8]. Here, we show that a multisensory audiovisual training procedure facilitates visual learning and results in significantly faster learning than unisensory visual training. We trained one group of subjects with an audiovisual motion-detection task and a second group with a visual motion-detection task, and compared performance on trials containing only visual signals across ten days of training. Whereas observers in both groups showed improvements of visual sensitivity with training, subjects trained with multisensory stimuli showed significantly more learning both within and across training sessions. These benefits of multisensory training are particularly surprising given that the learning of visual motion stimuli is generally thought to be mediated by low-level visual brain areas [6, 9, 10]. Although crossmodal interactions are ubiquitous in human perceptual processing [11-13], the contribution of crossmodal information to perceptual learning has not been studied previously. Our results show that multisensory interactions can be exploited to yield more efficient learning of sensory information and suggest that multisensory training programs would be most effective for the acquisition of new skills.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sound*
  • Visual Perception*