Resolving multisensory and attentional influences across cortical depth in sensory cortices

Elife. 2020 Jan 8;9:e46856. doi: 10.7554/eLife.46856.


In our environment, our senses are bombarded with a myriad of signals, only a subset of which is relevant for our goals. Using sub-millimeter-resolution fMRI at 7T, we resolved BOLD-response and activation patterns across cortical depth in early sensory cortices to auditory, visual and audiovisual stimuli under auditory or visual attention. In visual cortices, auditory stimulation induced widespread inhibition irrespective of attention, whereas auditory relative to visual attention suppressed mainly central visual field representations. In auditory cortices, visual stimulation suppressed activations, but amplified responses to concurrent auditory stimuli, in a patchy topography. Critically, multisensory interactions in auditory cortices were stronger in deeper laminae, while attentional influences were greatest at the surface. These distinct depth-dependent profiles suggest that multisensory and attentional mechanisms regulate sensory processing via partly distinct circuitries. Our findings are crucial for understanding how the brain regulates information flow across senses to interact with our complex multisensory world.

Keywords: audiovisual; cortical layers; crossmodal attention; deactivations,; human; multisensory integration; neuroscience; primary sensory cortices.