Audiovisual Interactions Among Near-Threshold Oscillating Stimuli in the Far Periphery Are Phase-Dependent

Front Hum Neurosci. 2021 Aug 30;15:642341. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.642341. eCollection 2021.


Recent studies have highlighted the possible contributions of direct connectivity between early sensory cortices to audiovisual integration. Anatomical connections between the early auditory and visual cortices are concentrated in visual sites representing the peripheral field of view. Here, we aimed to engage early sensory interactive pathways with simple, far-peripheral audiovisual stimuli (auditory noise and visual gratings). Using a modulation detection task in one modality performed at an 84% correct threshold level, we investigated multisensory interactions by simultaneously presenting weak stimuli from the other modality in which the temporal modulation was barely-detectable (at 55 and 65% correct detection performance). Furthermore, we manipulated the temporal congruence between the cross-sensory streams. We found evidence for an influence of barely-detectable visual stimuli on the response times for auditory stimuli, but not for the reverse effect. These visual-to-auditory influences only occurred for specific phase-differences (at onset) between the modulated audiovisual stimuli. We discuss our findings in the light of a possible role of direct interactions between early visual and auditory areas, along with contributions from the higher-order association cortex. In sum, our results extend the behavioral evidence of audio-visual processing to the far periphery, and suggest - within this specific experimental setting - an asymmetry between the auditory influence on visual processing and the visual influence on auditory processing.

Keywords: audiovisual; far periphery; multisensory interactions; oscillatory phase; temporal modulation.