Neural substrates of reliability-weighted visual-tactile multisensory integration

Front Syst Neurosci. 2010 Jun 23;4:25. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2010.00025. eCollection 2010.


As sensory systems deteriorate in aging or disease, the brain must relearn the appropriate weights to assign each modality during multisensory integration. Using blood-oxygen level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging of human subjects, we tested a model for the neural mechanisms of sensory weighting, termed "weighted connections." This model holds that the connection weights between early and late areas vary depending on the reliability of the modality, independent of the level of early sensory cortex activity. When subjects detected viewed and felt touches to the hand, a network of brain areas was active, including visual areas in lateral occipital cortex, somatosensory areas in inferior parietal lobe, and multisensory areas in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). In agreement with the weighted connection model, the connection weight measured with structural equation modeling between somatosensory cortex and IPS increased for somatosensory-reliable stimuli, and the connection weight between visual cortex and IPS increased for visual-reliable stimuli. This double dissociation of connection strengths was similar to the pattern of behavioral responses during incongruent multisensory stimulation, suggesting that weighted connections may be a neural mechanism for behavioral reliability weighting.

Keywords: BOLD fMRI; area MT; effective connectivity; intraparietal cortex; structural equation modeling; weighted connections.