Audio-visual interactions in manual and saccadic responses
Chapter 1 introduces the notions of multisensory integration (the binding of information coming from different modalities into a unitary percept) and multisensory response enhancement (the improvement of the response to multisensory stimuli, relative to the response to the most efficient unisensory stimulus), as well as the general goal of the present thesis, which is to investigate different aspects of the multisensory integration of auditory and visual stimuli in manual and saccadic responses. The subsequent chapters report experimental evidence of different factors affecting the multisensory response: spatial discrepancy, stimulus salience, congruency between cross-modal attributes, and the inhibitory influence of concurring distractors. Chapter 2 reports three experiments on the role of the superior colliculus (SC) in multisensory integration. In order to achieve this, the absence of S-cone input to the SC has been exploited, following the method introduced by Sumner, Adamjee, and Mollon (2002). I found evidence that the spatial rule of multisensory integration (Meredith & Stein, 1983) applies only to SC-effective (luminance-channel) stimuli, and does not apply to SC-ineffective (S-cone) stimuli. The same results were obtained with an alternative method for the creation of S-cone stimuli: the tritanopic technique (Cavanagh, MacLeod, & Anstis, 1987; Stiles, 1959; Wald, 1966). In both cases significant multisensory response enhancements were obtained using a focused attention paradigm, in which the participants had to focus their attention on the visual modality and to inhibit responses to auditory stimuli. Chapter 3 reports two experiments showing the influence of shape congruency between auditory and visual stimuli on multisensory integration; i.e. the correspondence between structural aspects of visual and auditory stimuli (e.g., spiky shape and “spiky” sounds). Detection of audio-visual events was faster for congruent than incongruent pairs, and this congruency effect occurred also in a focused attention task, where participants were required to respond only to visual targets and could ignore irrelevant auditory stimuli. This particular type of cross-modal congruency was been evaluated in relation to the inverse effectiveness rule of multisensory integration (Meredith & Stein, 1983). In Chapter 4, the locus of the cross-modal shape congruency was evaluated applying the race model analysis (Miller, 1982). The results showed that the violation of the model is stronger for some congruent pairings in comparison to incongruent pairings. Evidence of multisensory depression was found for some pairs of incongruent stimuli. These data imply a perceptual locus for the cross-modal shape congruency effect. Moreover, it is evident that multisensoriality does not always induce an enhancement, and in some cases, when the attributes of the stimuli are particularly incompatible, a unisensory response may be more effective that the multisensory one. Chapter 5 reports experiments centred on saccadic generation mechanisms. Specifically, the multisensoriality of the saccadic inhibition (SI; Reingold&Stampe, 2002) phenomenon is investigated. Saccadic inhibition refers to a characteristic inhibitory dip in saccadic frequency beginning 60-70 ms after onset of a distractor. The very short latency of SI suggests that the distractor interferes directly with subcortical target selection processes in the SC. The impact of multisensory stimulation on SI was studied in four experiments. In Experiments 7 and 8, a visual target was presented with a concurrent audio, visual or audio-visual distractor. Multisensory audio-visual distractors induced stronger SI than did unisensory distractors, but there was no evidence of multisensory integration (as assessed by a race model analysis). In Experiments 9 and 10, visual, auditory or audio-visual targets were accompanied by a visual distractor. When there was no distractor, multisensory integration was observed for multisensory targets. However, this multisensory integration effect disappeared in the presence of a visual distractor. As a general conclusion, the results from Chapter 5 results indicate that multisensory integration occurs for target stimuli, but not for distracting stimuli, and that the process of audio-visual integration is itself sensitive to disruption by distractors.