Functional Imaging Reveals Visual Modulation of Specific Fields in Auditory Cortex

Abstract
Merging the information from different senses is essential for successful interaction with real-life situations. Indeed, sensory integration can reduce perceptual ambiguity, speed reactions, or change the qualitative sensory experience. It is widely held that integration occurs at later processing stages and mostly in higher association cortices; however, recent studies suggest that sensory convergence can occur in primary sensory cortex. A good model for early convergence proved to be the auditory cortex, which can be modulated by visual and tactile stimulation; however, given the large number and small size of auditory fields, neither human imaging nor microelectrode recordings have systematically identified which fields are susceptible to multisensory influences. To reconcile findings from human imaging with anatomical knowledge from nonhuman primates, we exploited high-resolution imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) of the macaque monkey to study the modulation of auditory processing by visual stimulation. Using a functional parcellation of auditory cortex, we localized modulations to individual fields. Our results demonstrate that both primary (core) and nonprimary (belt) auditory fields can be activated by the mere presentation of visual scenes. Audiovisual convergence was restricted to caudal fields [prominently the core field (primary auditory cortex) and belt fields (caudomedial field, caudolateral field, and mediomedial field)] and continued in the auditory parabelt and the superior temporal sulcus. The same fields exhibited enhancement of auditory activation by visual stimulation and showed stronger enhancement for less effective stimuli, two characteristics of sensory integration. Together, these findings reveal multisensory modulation of auditory processing prominently in caudal fields but also at the lowest stages of auditory cortical processing.
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Mohan Matthen (2010). On the Diversity of Auditory Objects. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (1):63-89.
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