The Complex Interplay Between Multisensory Integration and Perceptual Awareness, Multisensory Research.

The integration of information has been considered a hallmark of human consciousness, as it requires information being globally available via widespread neural interactions. Yet the complex interdependencies between multisensory integration and perceptual awareness, or consciousness, remain to be defined. While perceptual awareness has traditionally been studied in a single sense, in recent years we have witnessed a surge of interest in the role of multisensory integration in perceptual awareness. Based on a recent IMRF symposium on multisensory awareness, this review discusses three key questions from conceptual, methodological and experimental perspectives: (1) What do we study when we study multisensory awareness? (2) What is the relationship between multisensory integration and perceptual awareness? (3) Which experimental approaches are most promising to characterize multisensory awareness? We hope that this review paper will provoke lively discussions, novel experiments, and conceptual considerations to advance our understanding of the multifaceted interplay between multisensory integration and consciousness.

Binocular Rivalry Measured 2 Hours After Occlusion Therapy Predicts the Recovery Rate of the Amblyopic Eye in Anisometropic Children, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 4 (57), 1537-1546.

PURPOSE. Recent studies on adults have shown that short-term monocular deprivation boosts the deprived eye signal in binocular rivalry, reflecting homeostatic plasticity. Here we investigate whether homeostatic plasticity is present also during occlusion therapy for moderate amblyopia. METHODS. Binocular rivalry and visual acuity (using Snellen charts for children) were measured in 10 children (mean age 6.2 ± 1 years) with moderate anisometropic amblyopia before the beginning of treatment and at four intervals during occlusion therapy (2 hours, 1, 2, and 5 months). Visual stimuli were orthogonal gratings presented dichoptically through ferromagnetic goggles and children reported verbally visual rivalrous perception. Bangerter filters were applied on the spectacle lens over the best eye for occlusion therapy. RESULTS. Two hours of occlusion therapy increased the nonamblyopic eye predominance over the amblyopic eye compared with pretreatment measurements, consistent with the results in adults. The boost of the nonamblyopic eye was still present after 1 month of treatment, steadily decreasing afterward to reach pretreatment levels after 2 months of continuous occlusion. Across subjects, the increase in nonamblyopic eye predominance observed after 2 hours of occlusion correlated (rho = -0.65, P = 0.04) with the visual acuity improvement of the amblyopic eye measured after 2 months of treatment. CONCLUSIONS. Homeostatic plasticity operates during occlusion therapy for moderate amblyopia and the increase in nonamblyopic eye dominance observed at the beginning of treatment correlates with the amblyopic eye recovery rate. These results suggest that binocular rivalry might be used to monitor visual cortical plasticity during occlusion therapy, although further investigations on larger clinical populations are needed to validate the predictive power of the technique.

Early Cross-modal Plasticity in Adults, J Cogn Neurosci, 3 (29), 520-529.

It is known that, after a prolonged period of visual deprivation, the adult visual cortex can be recruited for nonvisual processing, reflecting cross-modal plasticity. Here, we investigated whether cross-modal plasticity can occur at short timescales in the typical adult brain by comparing the interaction between vision and touch during binocular rivalry before and after a brief period of monocular deprivation, which strongly alters ocular balance favoring the deprived eye. While viewing dichoptically two gratings of orthogonal orientation, participants were asked to actively explore a haptic grating congruent in orientation to one of the two rivalrous stimuli. We repeated this procedure before and after 150 min of monocular deprivation. We first confirmed that haptic stimulation interacted with vision during rivalry promoting dominance of the congruent visuo-haptic stimulus and that monocular deprivation increased the deprived eye and decreased the nondeprived eye dominance. Interestingly, after deprivation, we found that the effect of touch did not change for the nondeprived eye, whereas it disappeared for the deprived eye, which was potentiated after deprivation. The absence of visuo-haptic interaction for the deprived eye lasted for over 1 hr and was not attributable to a masking induced by the stronger response of the deprived eye as confirmed by a control experiment. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the adult human visual cortex retains a high degree of cross-modal plasticity, which can occur even at very short timescales.

The temporal frequency tuning of continuous flash suppression reveals peak suppression at very low frequencies, Sci Rep, (6), 35723.

Continuous flash suppression (CFS) is a psychophysical technique where a rapidly changing Mondrian pattern viewed by one eye suppresses the target in the other eye for several seconds. Despite the widespread use of CFS to study unconscious visual processes, the temporal tuning of CFS suppression is currently unknown. In the present study we used spatiotemporally filtered dynamic noise as masking stimuli to probe the temporal characteristics of CFS. Surprisingly, we find that suppression in CFS peaks very prominently at approximately 1 Hz, well below the rates typically used in CFS studies (10 Hz or more). As well as a strong bias to low temporal frequencies, CFS suppression is greater for high spatial frequencies and increases with increasing masker contrast, indicating involvement of parvocellular/ventral mechanisms in the suppression process. These results are reminiscent of binocular rivalry, and unifies two phenomenon previously thought to require different explanations.