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Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Aug;27(8):1155-63. Epub 2005 Jul 20.

Enhanced multisensory integration in older adults.

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Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


Information from the different senses is seamlessly integrated by the brain in order to modify our behaviors and enrich our perceptions. It is only through the appropriate binding and integration of information from the different senses that a meaningful and accurate perceptual gestalt can be generated. Although a great deal is known about how such cross-modal interactions influence behavior and perception in the adult, there is little knowledge as to the impact of aging on these multisensory processes. In the current study, we examined the speed of discrimination responses of aged and young individuals to the presentation of visual, auditory or combined visual-auditory stimuli. Although the presentation of multisensory stimuli speeded response times in both groups, the performance gain was significantly greater in the aged. Most strikingly, multisensory stimuli restored response times in the aged to those seen in young subjects to the faster of the two unisensory stimuli (i.e., visual). The current results suggest that despite the decline in sensory processing that accompanies aging, the use of multiple sensory channels may represent an effective compensatory strategy to overcome these unisensory deficits.

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