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Seeing Perceiving. 2011;24(6):579-94. doi: 10.1163/187847611X603738.

Spatial shifts of audio-visual interactions by perceptual learning are specific to the trained orientation and eye.

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Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


A large proportion of the human cortex is devoted to visual processing. Contrary to the traditional belief that multimodal integration takes place in multimodal processing areas separate from visual cortex, several studies have found that sounds may directly alter processing in visual brain areas. Furthermore, recent findings show that perceptual learning can change the perceptual mechanisms that relate auditory and visual senses. However, there is still a debate about the systems involved in cross-modal learning. Here, we investigated the specificity of audio-visual perceptual learning. Audio-visual cuing effects were tested on a Gabor orientation task and an object discrimination task in the presence of lateralised sound cues before and after eight-days of cross-modal task-irrelevant perceptual learning. During training, the sound cues were paired with visual stimuli that were misaligned at a proximal (trained) visual field location relative to the sound. Training was performed with one eye patched and with only one Gabor orientation. Consistent with previous findings we found that cross-modal perceptual training shifted the audio-visual cueing effect towards the trained retinotopic location. However, this shift in audio-visual tuning was only observed for the trained stimulus (Gabors), at the trained orientation, and in the trained eye. This specificity suggests that multimodal interactions resulting from cross-modal (audio-visual) task-irrelevant perceptual learning involves so-called unisensory visual processing areas in humans. Our findings provide further support for recent anatomical and physiological findings that suggest relatively early interactions in cross-modal processing.

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