Applying capacity analyses to psychophysical evaluation of multisensory interactions

Inf Fusion. 2010 Jan 1;11(1):12-20. doi: 10.1016/j.inffus.2009.04.004.


Determining when, if, and how information from separate sensory channels has been combined is a fundamental goal of research on multisensory processing in the brain. This can be a particular challenge in psychophysical data, as there is no direct recording of neural output. The most common way to characterize multisensory interactions in behavioral data is to compare responses to multisensory stimulation with the race model, a model of parallel, independent processing constructed from the probability of responses to the two unisensory stimuli which make up the multisensory stimulus. If observed multisensory reaction times are faster than those predicted by the model, it is inferred that information from the two channels is being combined rather than processed independently. Recently, behavioral research has been published employing capacity analyses where comparisons between two conditions are carried out at the level of the integrated hazard function. Capacity analyses seem to be particularly appealing technique for evaluating multisensory functioning, as they describe relationships between conditions across the entire distribution curve, are relatively easy and intuitive to interpret. The current paper presents capacity analysis of a behavioral data set previously analyzed using the race model. While applications of capacity analyses are still somewhat limited due to their novelty, it is hoped that this exploration of capacity and race model analyses will encourage the use of this promising new technique both in multisensory research and other applicable fields.