Auditory and tactile signals combine to influence vision during binocular rivalry,J Neurosci, 3 (34), 784-792.
Resolution of perceptual ambiguity is one function of cross-modal interactions. Here we investigate whether auditory and tactile stimuli can influence binocular rivalry generated by interocular temporal conflict in human subjects. Using dichoptic visual stimuli modulating at different temporal frequencies, we added modulating sounds or vibrations congruent with one or the other visual temporal frequency. Auditory and tactile stimulation both interacted with binocular rivalry by promoting dominance of the congruent visual stimulus. This effect depended on the cross-modal modulation strength and was absent when modulation depth declined to 33%. However, when auditory and tactile stimuli that were too weak on their own to bias binocular rivalry were combined, their influence over vision was very strong, suggesting the auditory and tactile temporal signals combined to influence vision. Similarly, interleaving discrete pulses of auditory and tactile stimuli also promoted dominance of the visual stimulus congruent with the supramodal frequency. When auditory and tactile stimuli were presented at maximum strength, but in antiphase, they had no influence over vision for low temporal frequencies, a null effect again suggesting audio-tactile combination. We also found that the cross-modal interaction was frequency-sensitive at low temporal frequencies, when information about temporal phase alignment can be perceptually tracked. These results show that auditory and tactile temporal processing is functionally linked, suggesting a common neural substrate for the two sensory modalities and that at low temporal frequencies visual activity can be synchronized by a congruent cross-modal signal in a frequency-selective way, suggesting the existence of a supramodal temporal binding mechanism.