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Exp Brain Res. 2009 Sep;198(2-3):353-61. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1769-6. Epub 2009 Mar 22.

Specificity of auditory-guided visual perceptual learning suggests crossmodal plasticity in early visual cortex.

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Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Sounds modulate visual perception. Blind humans show altered brain activity in early visual cortex. However, it is still unclear whether crossmodal activity in visual cortex results from unspecific top-down feedback, a lack of visual input, or genuinely reflects crossmodal interactions at early sensory levels. We examined how sounds affect visual perceptual learning in sighted adults. Visual motion discrimination was tested prior to and following eight sessions in which observers were exposed to irrelevant moving dots while detecting sounds. After training, visual discrimination improved more strongly for motion directions that were paired with a relevant sound during training than for other directions. Crossmodal learning was limited to visual field locations that overlapped with the sound source and was little affected by attention. The specificity and automatic nature of these learning effects suggest that sounds automatically guide visual plasticity at a relatively early level of processing.

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