Individual Alpha Frequency Relates to the Sound-Induced Flash Illusion

in Multisensory Research
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Ongoing neural oscillations reflect fluctuations of cortical excitability. A growing body of research has underlined the role of neural oscillations for stimulus processing. Neural oscillations in the alpha band have gained special interest in electrophysiological research on perception. Recent studies proposed the idea that neural oscillations provide temporal windows in which sensory stimuli can be perceptually integrated. This also includes multisensory integration. In the current high-density EEG-study we examined the relationship between the individual alpha frequency (IAF) and cross-modal audiovisual integration in the sound-induced flash illusion (SIFI). In 26 human volunteers we found a negative correlation between the IAF and the SIFI illusion rate. Individuals with a lower IAF showed higher audiovisual illusions. Source analysis suggested an involvement of the visual cortex, especially the calcarine sulcus, for this relationship. Our findings corroborate the notion that the IAF affects the cross-modal integration of auditory on visual stimuli in the SIFI. We integrate our findings with recent observations on the relationship between audiovisual integration and neural oscillations and suggest a multifaceted influence of neural oscillations on multisensory processing.

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Figures
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    Experimental setup in the SIFI paradigm. Left panel: Participants fixated a central white cross while being presented with auditory and visual stimuli. A single flash presented alongside two rapidly repeating tones is either perceived as one or two flashes. Right panel: Timeline of the critical A2V1 trial, in which participants potentially perceived two visual inputs. The visual stimulus and the first auditory stimulus were presented simultaneously. The second auditory stimulus was presented 57 ms after the onset of the first stimulus. Six hundred milliseconds after the onset of the first stimulus, the fixation cross was replaced by a response cue, which comprised an empty circle that was presented in the center of the screen. The intertrial-interval (ITI) varied randomly between 1000 and 1500 ms.

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    Correlation between the IAF and the SIFI illusion rate. (A) The IAF is negatively correlated with the SIFI illusion rate, indicating that a lower IAF facilitates audiovisual integration. (B) Statistical analysis revealed one occipital cluster of eight electrodes for the negative correlation between the IAF and the SIFI illusion rate. (C) Correlation values were projected into source space using sLoreta. To counter the center of head bias, source-level data were normalized by an estimate of the spatially inhomogeneous noise. The resulting neural activation index (NAI) of correlation values indicated the calcarine sulcus as the likely source of the correlation between IAF and SIFI illusion rate.

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