Perception of the touch-induced visual double-flash illusion correlates with changes of rhythmic neuronal activity in human visual and somatosensory areas

Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 15;54(2):1395-405. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.09.031. Epub 2010 Sep 18.


A single brief visual stimulus accompanied by two brief tactile stimuli is frequently perceived incorrectly as two flashes, a phenomenon called double-flash illusion (DFI). We investigated whether the DFI is accompanied by changes in rhythmic neuronal activity, using magnetoencephalography in human subjects. Twenty-two subjects received visuo-tactile stimulation and reported the number of perceived visual stimuli. We sorted trials with identical physical stimulation according to the reported subjective percept and assessed differences in spectral power in somatosensory and occipital sensors. In DFI trials, occipital sensors displayed a contralateral enhancement of gamma-band (80-140 Hz) activity in response to stimulation. In somatosensory sensors, the DFI was associated with an increase of spectral power for low frequencies (5-17.5 Hz) around stimulation and a decrease of spectral power in the 22.5-30 Hz range between 450 and 750 ms post-stimulation. In summary, several components of rhythmic activity predicted variable subjective experience for constant physical stimulation. Notably, the enhanced occipital gamma-band activity during DFI was similar in time and frequency extent to the somatosensory gamma-band response to tactile stimulation. We speculate that the DFI might therefore occur when the somatosensory gamma-response is transmitted to visual cortex. This transmission might be supported by the observed modulations in low-frequency activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult