Auditory and tactile frequency representations are co-embedded in modality-defined cortical sensory systems

Neuroimage. 2020 Jul 15;215:116837. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116837. Epub 2020 Apr 11.


Sensory information is represented and elaborated in hierarchical cortical systems that are thought to be dedicated to individual sensory modalities. This traditional view of sensory cortex organization has been challenged by recent evidence of multimodal responses in primary and association sensory areas. Although it is indisputable that sensory areas respond to multiple modalities, it remains unclear whether these multimodal responses reflect selective information processing for particular stimulus features. Here, we used fMRI adaptation to identify brain regions that are sensitive to the temporal frequency information contained in auditory, tactile, and audiotactile stimulus sequences. A number of brain regions distributed over the parietal and temporal lobes exhibited frequency-selective temporal response modulation for both auditory and tactile stimulus events, as indexed by repetition suppression effects. A smaller set of regions responded to crossmodal adaptation sequences in a frequency-dependent manner. Despite an extensive overlap of multimodal frequency-selective responses across the parietal and temporal lobes, representational similarity analysis revealed a cortical "regional landscape" that clearly reflected distinct somatosensory and auditory processing systems that converged on modality-invariant areas. These structured relationships between brain regions were also evident in spontaneous signal fluctuation patterns measured at rest. Our results reveal that multimodal processing in human cortex can be feature-specific and that multimodal frequency representations are embedded in the intrinsically hierarchical organization of cortical sensory systems.

Keywords: Audiotactile; Crossmodal; Multimodal; Multisensory; Representational similarity analysis; Resting state; Supramodal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Touch / physiology*