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Contextual control of audiovisual integration in low-level sensory cortices

Publication year 2014
Published in Human Brain Mapping
Authors N. Van Atteveldt, Bradley S Peterson, Charles E Schroeder

Potential sources of multisensory influences on low-level sensory cortices include direct projections from sensory cortices of different modalities, as well as more indirect feedback inputs from higher order multisensory cortical regions. These multiple architectures may be functionally complementary, but the exact roles and inter-relationships of the circuits are unknown. Using a fully balanced context manipulation, we tested the hypotheses that: (1) feedforward and lateral pathways subserve speed functions, such as detecting peripheral stimuli. Multisensory integration effects in this context are predicted in peripheral fields of low-level sensory cortices. (2) Slower feedback pathways underpin accuracy functions, such as object discrimination. Integration effects in this context are predicted in higher-order association cortices and central/foveal fields of low-level sensory cortex. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the effects of central versus peripheral stimulation on audiovisual integration, while varying speed and accuracy requirements for behavioral responses. We found that interactions of task demands and stimulus eccentricity in low-level sensory cortices are more complex than would be predicted by a simple dichotomy such as our hypothesized peripheral/speed and foveal/accuracy functions. Additionally, our findings point to individual differences in integration that may be related to skills and strategy. Overall, our findings suggest that instead of using fixed, specialized pathways, the exact circuits and mechanisms that are used for low-level multisensory integration are much more flexible and contingent upon both individual and contextual factors than previously assumed.

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