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Exp Brain Res. 2012 May;218(3):477-85. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3038-3. Epub 2012 Feb 25.

Audiovisual time perception is spatially specific.

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Bradford School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK.


Our sensory systems face a daily barrage of auditory and visual signals whose arrival times form a wide range of audiovisual asynchronies. These temporal relationships constitute an important metric for the nervous system when surmising which signals originate from common external events. Internal consistency is known to be aided by sensory adaptation: repeated exposure to consistent asynchrony brings perceived arrival times closer to simultaneity. However, given the diverse nature of our audiovisual environment, functionally useful adaptation would need to be constrained to signals that were generated together. In the current study, we investigate the role of two potential constraining factors: spatial and contextual correspondence. By employing an experimental design that allows independent control of both factors, we show that observers are able to simultaneously adapt to two opposing temporal relationships, provided they are segregated in space. No such recalibration was observed when spatial segregation was replaced by contextual stimulus features (in this case, pitch and spatial frequency). These effects provide support for dedicated asynchrony mechanisms that interact with spatially selective mechanisms early in visual and auditory sensory pathways.

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