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J Neurosci. 2007 Oct 24;27(43):11465-72.

Occipital transcranial magnetic stimulation has opposing effects on visual and auditory stimulus detection: implications for multisensory interactions.

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  • 1Functional Brain Mapping Laboratory, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.


Multisensory interactions occur early in time and in low-level cortical areas, including primary cortices. To test current models of early auditory-visual (AV) convergence in unisensory visual brain areas, we studied the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of visual cortex on behavioral responses to unisensory (auditory or visual) or multisensory (simultaneous auditory-visual) stimulus presentation. Single-pulse TMS was applied over the occipital pole at short delays (30-150 ms) after external stimulus onset. Relative to TMS over a control site, reactions times (RTs) to unisensory visual stimuli were prolonged by TMS at 60-75 ms poststimulus onset (visual suppression effect), confirming stimulation of functional visual cortex. Conversely, RTs to unisensory auditory stimuli were significantly shortened when visual cortex was stimulated by TMS at the same delays (beneficial interaction effect of auditory stimulation and occipital TMS). No TMS-effect on RTs was observed for AV stimulation. The beneficial interaction effect of combined unisensory auditory and TMS-induced visual cortex stimulation matched and was correlated with the RT-facilitation after external multisensory AV stimulation without TMS, suggestive of multisensory interactions between the stimulus-evoked auditory and TMS-induced visual cortex activities. A follow-up experiment showed that auditory input enhances excitability within visual cortex itself (using phosphene-induction via TMS as a measure) over a similarly early time-window (75-120 ms). The collective data support a mechanism of early auditory-visual interactions that is mediated by auditory-driven sensitivity changes in visual neurons that coincide in time with the initial volleys of visual input.

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