A number of studies have demonstrated that the relative timing of audiovisual stimuli is especially important for multisensory integration of speech signals although the neuronal mechanisms underlying this complex behavior are unknown. Temporal coincidence and congruency are thought to underlie the successful merging of two intermodal stimuli into a coherent perceptual representation. It has been previously shown that single neurons in the non-human primate prefrontal cortex integrate face and vocalization information. However, these multisensory responses and the degree to which they depend on temporal coincidence have yet to be determined. In this study we analyzed the response latency of ventrolateral prefrontal (VLPFC) neurons to face, vocalization and combined face-vocalization stimuli and an offset (asynchronous) version of the face-vocalization stimulus. Our results indicate that for most prefrontal multisensory neurons, the response latency for the vocalization was the shortest, followed by the combined face-vocalization stimuli. The face stimulus had the longest onset response latency. When tested with a dynamic face-vocalization stimulus that had been temporally offset (asynchronous) one-third of multisensory cells in VLPFC demonstrated a change in response compared to the response to the natural, synchronous face-vocalization movie. Our results indicate that prefrontal neurons are sensitive to the temporal properties of audiovisual stimuli. A disruption in the temporal synchrony of an audiovisual signal which results in a change in the firing of communication related prefrontal neurons could underlie the loss in intelligibility which occurs with asynchronous speech stimuli.
Copyright © 2012 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.