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Brain Res. 2013 Nov 6;1537:156-63. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.09.008. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Concurrent emotional pictures modulate temporal order judgments of spatially separated audio-tactile stimuli.

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Experimental Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, Germany.


Although attention can be captured toward high-arousal stimuli, little is known about how perceiving emotion in one modality influences the temporal processing of non-emotional stimuli in other modalities. We addressed this issue by presenting observers spatially uninformative emotional pictures while they performed an audio-tactile temporal-order judgment (TOJ) task. In Experiment 1, audio-tactile stimuli were presented at the same location straight ahead of the participants, who had to judge "which modality came first?". In Experiments 2 and 3, the audio-tactile stimuli were delivered one to the left and the other to the right side, and participants had to judge "which side came first?". We found both negative and positive high-arousal pictures to significantly bias TOJs towards the tactile and away from the auditory event when the audio-tactile stimuli were spatially separated; by contrast, there was no such bias when the audio-tactile stimuli originated from the same location. To further examine whether this bias is attributable to the emotional meanings conveyed by the pictures or to their high arousal effect, we compared and contrasted the influences of near-body threat vs. remote threat (emotional) pictures on audio-tactile TOJs in Experiment 3. The bias manifested only in the near-body threat condition. Taken together, the findings indicate that visual stimuli conveying meanings of near-body interaction activate a sensorimotor functional link prioritizing the processing of tactile over auditory signals when these signals are spatially separated. In contrast, audio-tactile signals from the same location engender strong crossmodal integration, thus counteracting modality-based attentional shifts induced by the emotional pictures.


Audiotactile events; Emotional modulation; Temporal order judgment

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