Single-trial encounters with multisensory stimuli affect both memory performance and early-latency brain responses to visual stimuli. Whether and how auditory cortices support memory processes based on single-trial multisensory learning is unknown and may differ qualitatively and quantitatively from comparable processes within visual cortices due to purported differences in memory capacities across the senses. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) as healthy adults (n = 18) performed a continuous recognition task in the auditory modality, discriminating initial (new) from repeated (old) sounds of environmental objects. Initial presentations were either unisensory or multisensory; the latter entailed synchronous presentation of a semantically congruent or a meaningless image. Repeated presentations were exclusively auditory, thus differing only according to the context in which the sound was initially encountered. Discrimination abilities (indexed by d') were increased for repeated sounds that were initially encountered with a semantically congruent image versus sounds initially encountered with either a meaningless or no image. Analyses of ERPs within an electrical neuroimaging framework revealed that early stages of auditory processing of repeated sounds were affected by prior single-trial multisensory contexts. These effects followed from significantly reduced activity within a distributed network, including the right superior temporal cortex, suggesting an inverse relationship between brain activity and behavioural outcome on this task. The present findings demonstrate how auditory cortices contribute to long-term effects of multisensory experiences on auditory object discrimination. We propose a new framework for the efficacy of multisensory processes to impact both current multisensory stimulus processing and unisensory discrimination abilities later in time.
Keywords: auditory cortex; cross-modal; event-related potential; human memory; multisensory.
© 2015 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.