Meta-Analyses Support a Taxonomic Model for Representations of Different Categories of Audio-Visual Interaction Events in the Human Brain

Cereb Cortex Commun. 2021 Jan 18;2(1):tgab002. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgab002. eCollection 2021.


Our ability to perceive meaningful action events involving objects, people, and other animate agents is characterized in part by an interplay of visual and auditory sensory processing and their cross-modal interactions. However, this multisensory ability can be altered or dysfunctional in some hearing and sighted individuals, and in some clinical populations. The present meta-analysis sought to test current hypotheses regarding neurobiological architectures that may mediate audio-visual multisensory processing. Reported coordinates from 82 neuroimaging studies (137 experiments) that revealed some form of audio-visual interaction in discrete brain regions were compiled, converted to a common coordinate space, and then organized along specific categorical dimensions to generate activation likelihood estimate (ALE) brain maps and various contrasts of those derived maps. The results revealed brain regions (cortical "hubs") preferentially involved in multisensory processing along different stimulus category dimensions, including 1) living versus nonliving audio-visual events, 2) audio-visual events involving vocalizations versus actions by living sources, 3) emotionally valent events, and 4) dynamic-visual versus static-visual audio-visual stimuli. These meta-analysis results are discussed in the context of neurocomputational theories of semantic knowledge representations and perception, and the brain volumes of interest are available for download to facilitate data interpretation for future neuroimaging studies.

Keywords: categorical perception; embodied cognition; multisensory integration; neuroimaging; sensory-semantic categories.