Touch engages visual spatial contextual processing

Sci Rep. 2018 Nov 9;8(1):16637. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-34810-z.


The spatial context in which we view a visual stimulus strongly determines how we perceive the stimulus. In the visual tilt illusion, the perceived orientation of a visual grating is affected by the orientation signals in its surrounding context. Conceivably, the spatial context in which a visual grating is perceived can be defined by interactive multisensory information rather than visual signals alone. Here, we tested the hypothesis that tactile signals engage the neural mechanisms supporting visual contextual modulation. Because tactile signals also convey orientation information and touch can selectively interact with visual orientation perception, we predicted that tactile signals would modulate the visual tilt illusion. We applied a bias-free method to measure the tilt illusion while testing visual-only, tactile-only or visuo-tactile contextual surrounds. We found that a tactile context can influence visual tilt perception. Moreover, combining visual and tactile orientation information in the surround results in a larger tilt illusion relative to the illusion achieved with the visual-only surround. These results demonstrate that the visual tilt illusion is subject to multisensory influences and imply that non-visual signals access the neural circuits whose computations underlie the contextual modulation of vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Spatial Processing / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult