Visual modulation of neurons in auditory cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2008 Jul;18(7):1560-74. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhm187. Epub 2008 Jan 6.


Our brain integrates the information provided by the different sensory modalities into a coherent percept, and recent studies suggest that this process is not restricted to higher association areas. Here we evaluate the hypothesis that auditory cortical fields are involved in cross-modal processing by probing individual neurons for audiovisual interactions. We find that visual stimuli modulate auditory processing both at the level of field potentials and single-unit activity and already in primary and secondary auditory fields. These interactions strongly depend on a stimulus' efficacy in driving the neurons but occur independently of stimulus category and for naturalistic as well as artificial stimuli. In addition, interactions are sensitive to the relative timing of audiovisual stimuli and are strongest when visual stimuli lead by 20-80 msec. Exploring the underlying mechanisms, we find that enhancement correlates with the resetting of slow (approximately 10 Hz) oscillations to a phase angle of optimal excitability. These results demonstrate that visual stimuli can modulate the firing of neurons in auditory cortex in a manner that depends on stimulus efficacy and timing. These neurons thus meet the criteria for sensory integration and provide the auditory modality with multisensory contextual information about co-occurring environmental events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*