Reciprocal Interactions Between Audition and Touch in Flutter Frequency Perception

Multisens Res. 2019 Jan 1;32(1):67-85. doi: 10.1163/22134808-20181334.


In both audition and touch, sensory cues comprising repeating events are perceived either as a continuous signal or as a stream of temporally discrete events (flutter), depending on the events' repetition rate. At high repetition rates (>100 Hz), auditory and tactile cues interact reciprocally in pitch processing. The frequency of a cue experienced in one modality systematically biases the perceived frequency of a cue experienced in the other modality. Here, we tested whether audition and touch also interact in the processing of low-frequency stimulation. We also tested whether multisensory interactions occurred if the stimulation in one modality comprised click trains and the stimulation in the other modality comprised amplitude-modulated signals. We found that auditory cues bias touch and tactile cues bias audition on a flutter discrimination task. Even though participants were instructed to attend to a single sensory modality and ignore the other cue, the flutter rate in the attended modality is perceived to be similar to that of the distractor modality. Moreover, we observed similar interaction patterns regardless of stimulus type and whether the same stimulus types were experienced by both senses. Combined with earlier studies, our results suggest that the nervous system extracts and combines temporal rate information from multisensory environmental signals, regardless of stimulus type, in both the low- and high temporal frequency domains. This function likely reflects the importance of temporal frequency as a fundamental feature of our multisensory experience.

Keywords: Multisensory; audio-tactile; cross-modal; flutter; somatosensory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Vibration
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult