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Neuroimage. 2013 Oct 1;79:371-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.04.119. Epub 2013 May 9.

Tactile stimulation and hemispheric asymmetries modulate auditory perception and neural responses in primary auditory cortex.

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Department of Biological Psychology, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Postfach 4120, 39106 Magdeburg, Germany.


Although multisensory integration has been an important area of recent research, most studies focused on audiovisual integration. Importantly, however, the combination of audition and touch can guide our behavior as effectively which we studied here using psychophysics and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We tested whether task-irrelevant tactile stimuli would enhance auditory detection, and whether hemispheric asymmetries would modulate these audiotactile benefits using lateralized sounds. Spatially aligned task-irrelevant tactile stimuli could occur either synchronously or asynchronously with the sounds. Auditory detection was enhanced by non-informative synchronous and asynchronous tactile stimuli, if presented on the left side. Elevated fMRI-signals to left-sided synchronous bimodal stimulation were found in primary auditory cortex (A1). Adjacent regions (planum temporale, PT) expressed enhanced BOLD-responses for synchronous and asynchronous left-sided bimodal conditions. Additional connectivity analyses seeded in right-hemispheric A1 and PT for both bimodal conditions showed enhanced connectivity with right-hemispheric thalamic, somatosensory and multisensory areas that scaled with subjects' performance. Our results indicate that functional asymmetries interact with audiotactile interplay which can be observed for left-lateralized stimulation in the right hemisphere. There, audiotactile interplay recruits a functional network of unisensory cortices, and the strength of these functional network connections is directly related to subjects' perceptual sensitivity.

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