Multisensory integration: psychophysics, neurophysiology, and computation

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2009 Aug;19(4):452-8. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2009.06.008. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Fundamental observations and principles derived from traditional physiological studies of multisensory integration have been difficult to reconcile with computational and psychophysical studies that share the foundation of probabilistic (Bayesian) inference. We review recent work on multisensory integration, focusing on experiments that bridge single-cell electrophysiology, psychophysics, and computational principles. These studies show that multisensory (visual-vestibular) neurons can account for near-optimal cue integration during the perception of self-motion. Unlike the nonlinear (superadditive) interactions emphasized in some previous studies, visual-vestibular neurons accomplish near-optimal cue integration through subadditive linear summation of their inputs, consistent with recent computational theories. Important issues remain to be resolved, including the observation that variations in cue reliability appear to change the weights that neurons apply to their different sensory inputs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*