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Neurosci Lett. 2007 Mar 30;415(3):231-6. Epub 2007 Jan 14.

Effects of auditory noise on the psychophysical detection of visual signals: cross-modal stochastic resonance.

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Instituto de Fisiología, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 14 Sur 6301, Col. San Manuel, CP 72570 Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.


Harper [D.W. Harper, Signal detection analysis of effect of white noise intensity on sensitivity to visual flicker, Percept. Mot. Skills 48 (1979) 791-798] demonstrated that the visual flicker sensitivity was an inverted U-like function of the intensity of different levels of auditory noise from 50 to 90dB (SPL), without concomitant changes in the response bias. The aim of the present study was to extend these observations in the context of the stochastic resonance, a counterintuitive phenomenon in which a particular level of noise enhances the response of a nonlinear system to a weak input signal. We show psychophysical evidence in a yes-no paradigm for the existence of a stochastic resonance-like phenomenon in the auditory-visual interactions. We show that the detection of a weak visual signal was an inverted U-like function of the intensity of different levels of auditory noise. Nevertheless, for a strong visual signal the auditory noise acts in detriment of the ability of visual detection. Our results suggest that auditory noise could be employed in vision rehabilitation interventions in order to improve the detection of weak visual signals.

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