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Neuroreport. 2008 Mar 26;19(5):553-7. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3282f8b1b6.

Irrelevant visual stimuli improve auditory task performance.

Author information

  • 1MRC Institute of Hearing Research, Royal South Hants Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom. jeremy.thorne@soton.ac.uk


Multisensory behavioral benefits generally occur when one modality provides improved or disambiguating information to another. Here, we show benefits when no information is apparently provided. Participants performed an auditory frequency discrimination task in which auditory stimuli were paired with uninformative visual stimuli. Visual-auditory stimulus onset asynchrony was varied between -10 ms (sound first) to 80 ms without compromising perceptual simultaneity. In most stimulus onset asynchrony conditions, response times to audiovisual pairs were significantly shorter than auditory-alone controls. This suggests a general processing advantage for multisensory stimuli over unisensory stimuli, even when only one modality is informative. Response times were shortest with an auditory delay of 65 ms, indicating an audiovisual 'perceptual optimum' that may be related to processing simultaneity.

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