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Recalibration of the multisensory temporal window of integration results from changing task demands

Recalibration of the multisensory temporal window of integration results from changing task demands

Plos one 8(8): E71608

The notion of the temporal window of integration, when applied in a multisensory context, refers to the breadth of the interval across which the brain perceives two stimuli from different sensory modalities as synchronous. It maintains a unitary perception of multisensory events despite physical and biophysical timing differences between the senses. The boundaries of the window can be influenced by attention and past sensory experience. Here we examined whether task demands could also influence the multisensory temporal window of integration. We varied the stimulus onset asynchrony between simple, short-lasting auditory and visual stimuli while participants performed two tasks in separate blocks: a temporal order judgment task that required the discrimination of subtle auditory-visual asynchronies, and a reaction time task to the first incoming stimulus irrespective of its sensory modality. We defined the temporal window of integration as the range of stimulus onset asynchronies where performance was below 75% in the temporal order judgment task, as well as the range of stimulus onset asynchronies where responses showed multisensory facilitation (race model violation) in the reaction time task. In 5 of 11 participants, we observed audio-visual stimulus onset asynchronies where reaction time was significantly accelerated (indicating successful integration in this task) while performance was accurate in the temporal order judgment task (indicating successful segregation in that task). This dissociation suggests that in some participants, the boundaries of the temporal window of integration can adaptively recalibrate in order to optimize performance according to specific task demands.

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Accession: 055395904

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PMID: 23951203

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