Their findings, which provide new insight into neural mechanisms by which visual perception can be altered by concurrent auditory events, will be published online in the April 12 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.
When subjects were shown a single flash of light interposed between two brief sounds, many subjects reported seeing two distinct flashes of light. Investigating the timing and location of the brain processes that underlie this illusory effect – the illusion of seeing two flashes in the presence of two auditory signals, when only one flash actually occurs – can reveal how information from different senses are integrated in the brain.
The study of 34 subjects was carried out in the laboratory of Steven A. Hillyard, Ph.D., UCSD professor of neurosciences. "This type of perceptual illusion has been described before," said first author Jyoti Mishra, graduate student in the Hillyard lab. "The surprising finding we made is that the illusion depends on a rapidly timed sequence of interactions between the auditory and visual cortical areas."
"This is part of a set of new findings by scientists in the field that show how integration of multiple sensations can happen much more rapidly than we thought before," said Mishra. "We show physiological evidence that visual and auditory stimulation might not be processed separately, then merged together, as previously assumed, but that an almost-simultaneous integration of the sensations may actually take place in the brain."
The UCSD scientists measured event-related potentials (ERPs), brain responses that are directly related to the perceptual experiences induced by sensory stimuli, using an electrophysiological or EEG recording procedure that measures electrical activity of the brain through the skull.
"In subjects who reported seeing a second flash, the ERP measurements showed a boost of activity within the visual cortex of the brain immediately after hearing the second sound," said Mishra, adding that the second sound amplified the brain activity stimulated by the first sound. Perception of the second illusory flash was also marked by a rapid enhancement of processing in the auditory cortex of the brain. By observing the auditory boost, the researchers could predict when subjects would report seeing the visual illusion of a second flash.
"Our results provide evidence that perception of the illusory second flash is based on a very rapid and dynamic interplay between the auditory and visual cortices of the brain – on a time scale less than one tenth the blink of an eye." Mishra said. Interestingly, the pattern was very different between individuals who did or didn't see the second flash, indicating that the brain's wiring and the strength of integration between the different sensory cortices may differ between individuals, or even vary over time. "It suggests that there are consistent differences in the neural connectivity that are possibly shaped during one's development and through experience," she said.
Next, the researchers plan to look at whether or not attention affects these illusory sensations. These studies could shed light on how people deprived of one sensation often compensate by developing another – for instance, blind people with a more acute sense of hearing.
Debra Kain | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering