Audiovisual Association Learning in the Absence of Primary Visual Cortex

Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Jan 5;9:686. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00686. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

Learning audiovisual associations is mediated by the primary cortical areas; however, recent animal studies suggest that such learning can take place even in the absence of the primary visual cortex. Other studies have demonstrated the involvement of extra-geniculate pathways and especially the superior colliculus (SC) in audiovisual association learning. Here, we investigated such learning in a rare human patient with complete loss of the bilateral striate cortex. We carried out an implicit audiovisual association learning task with two different colors of red and purple (the latter color known to minimally activate the extra-genicular pathway). Interestingly, the patient learned the association between an auditory cue and a visual stimulus only when the unseen visual stimulus was red, but not when it was purple. The current study presents the first evidence showing the possibility of audiovisual association learning in humans with lesioned striate cortex. Furthermore, in line with animal studies, it supports an important role for the SC in audiovisual associative learning.

Keywords: audiovisual learning; blindsight; superior colliculus.