Salvador Soto Faraco – Multisensory integration under the yoke of attention

Event Date: 14 February 2013
Room 243
Senate House
University of London
London WC1E 7HU

The Institute of Philosophy presents:

Professor Salvador Soto Faraco (ICREA, Universitat Pompeu Fabra) – Multisensory integration under the yoke of attention

The beneficial consequences of perceiving and integrating information across different sensory systems have been profusely described in recent literature. For example, we often find it easier to hear someone at a noisy party when we can see their face or, can react more accurately to the blare of a siren if we can also see the ambulance. Multisensory phenomena like these have been extensively studied in the laboratory, but often under conditions where attention can be easily focused on the critical stimuli. However, these focused attention conditions are very different from most everyday life environments, where many relevant and irrelevant sensory events can co-occur within a short time window and perhaps at close locations in space. What is more, multisensory coincidences may occur at completely unexpected moments and places. In these cases, segregation, selection and, the detection of true inter-sensory coincidences from spurious correlations are essential to be able to benefit from multisensory integration. But, is multisensory integration robust to attentionally demanding situations? I will present the results of recent studies from our laboratory that address precisely this issue by looking at the interplay between attention and multisensory integration. These studies span across various domains of perception where multisensory integration plays a paramount role. In the domain of audio-visual integration of speech, I will show examples of how selective attention can modulate behavioural and physiological expressions of multisensory integration. In the domain of temporal processing, I will illustrate how expectation to different points in time can alter the way information is bound across sensory modalities. Finally, in the domain of body representation, I will present some studies that attempt to track how the perception (and perhaps awareness) of touch in space unfolds as information from different modalities is orchestrated through integration. Altogether, the (modest) conclusion of this talk is that multisensory integration cannot be understood without its interplay with attention systems, and that this interplay may lead to have radically different perceptions of otherwise similar sensory combinations.

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