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Steady-State EEG and Psychophysical Measures of Multisensory Integration to Cross-Modally Synchronous and Asynchronous Acoustic and Vibrotactile Amplitude Modulation Rate

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According to the temporal principle of multisensory integration, cross-modal synchronisation of stimulus onset facilitates multisensory integration. This is typically observed as a greater response to multisensory stimulation relative to the sum of the constituent unisensory responses (i.e., superadditivity). The aim of the present study was to examine whether the temporal principle extends to the cross-modal synchrony of amplitude-modulation (AM) rate. It is well established that psychophysical sensitivity to AM stimulation is strongly influenced by AM rate where the optimum rate differs according to sensory modality. This rate-dependent sensitivity is also apparent from EEG steady-state response (SSR) activity, which becomes entrained to the stimulation rate and is thought to reflect neural processing of the temporal characteristics of AM stimulation. In this study we investigated whether cross-modal congruence of AM rate reveals both psychophysical and EEG evidence of enhanced multisensory integration. To achieve this, EEG SSR and psychophysical sensitivity to simultaneous acoustic and/or vibrotactile AM stimuli were measured at cross-modally congruent and incongruent AM rates. While the results provided no evidence of superadditive multisensory SSR activity or psychophysical sensitivity, the complex pattern of results did reveal a consistent correspondence between SSR activity and psychophysical sensitivity to AM stimulation. This indicates that entrained EEG activity may provide a direct measure of cortical activity underlying multisensory integration. Consistent with the temporal principle of multisensory integration, increased vibrotactile SSR responses and psychophysical sensitivity were found for cross-modally congruent relative to incongruent AM rate. However, no corresponding increase in auditory SSR or psychophysical sensitivity was observed for cross-modally congruent AM rates. This complex pattern of results can be understood in terms of the likely influence of the principle of inverse effectiveness where the temporal principle of multisensory integration was only evident in the context of reduced perceptual sensitivity for the vibrotactile but not the auditory modality.

Affiliations: 1: Brain Imaging Lab, School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, NSW, Australia

*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

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