Auditory-somatosensory multisensory interactions in humans: dissociating detection and spatial discrimination

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Nov;48(13):3696-705. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.09.001. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Simple reaction times (RTs) to auditory-somatosensory (AS) multisensory stimuli are facilitated over their unisensory counterparts both when stimuli are delivered to the same location and when separated. In two experiments we addressed the possibility that top-down and/or task-related influences can dynamically impact the spatial representations mediating these effects and the extent to which multisensory facilitation will be observed. Participants performed a simple detection task in response to auditory, somatosensory, or simultaneous AS stimuli that in turn were either spatially aligned or misaligned by lateralizing the stimuli. Additionally, we also informed the participants that they would be retrogradely queried (one-third of trials) regarding the side where a given stimulus in a given sensory modality was presented. In this way, we sought to have participants attending to all possible spatial locations and sensory modalities, while nonetheless having them perform a simple detection task. Experiment 1 provided no cues prior to stimulus delivery. Experiment 2 included spatially uninformative cues (50% of trials). In both experiments, multisensory conditions significantly facilitated detection RTs with no evidence for differences according to spatial alignment (though general benefits of cuing were observed in Experiment 2). Facilitated detection occurs even when attending to spatial information. Performance with probes, quantified using sensitivity (d'), was impaired following multisensory trials in general and significantly more so following misaligned multisensory trials. This indicates that spatial information is not available, despite being task-relevant. The collective results support a model wherein early AS interactions may result in a loss of spatial acuity for unisensory information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*