Semantics and the multisensory brain: how meaning modulates processes of audio-visual integration

Brain Res. 2008 Nov 25;1242:136-50. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.03.071. Epub 2008 Apr 9.


By using meaningful stimuli, multisensory research has recently started to investigate the impact of stimulus content on crossmodal integration. Variations in this respect have often been termed as "semantic". In this paper we will review work related to the question for which tasks the influence of semantic factors has been found and which cortical networks are most likely to mediate these effects. More specifically, the focus of this paper will be on processing of object stimuli presented in the auditory and visual sensory modalities. Furthermore, we will investigate which cortical regions are particularly responsive to experimental variations of content by comparing semantically matching ("congruent") and mismatching ("incongruent") experimental conditions. In this context, recent neuroimaging studies point toward a possible functional differentiation of temporal and frontal cortical regions, with the former being more responsive to semantically congruent and the latter to semantically incongruent audio-visual (AV) stimulation. To account for these differential effects, we will suggest in the final section of this paper a possible synthesis of these data on semantic modulation of AV integration with findings from neuroimaging studies and theoretical accounts of semantic memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Semantics*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*