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  • Author or Editor: Francesco Pavani x
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A recent study (Tsakiris et al., 2011) suggested that lower interoceptive sensitivity, as assessed by heat-rate estimation, predicts malleability of body representations, as measured by proprioceptive drift and ownership in a rubber hand illusion (RHI) task. The authors suggested that one explanation of their finding is linked to the notion of limited attentional resources: individuals with high interoceptive sensitivity are more aware of internal states and, in turns, they have less attentional resources available for multisensory processing. If this is the case, the competition between interoceptive and multisensory processing should be strongest when they are concurrent. Here we tested this prediction using a visuo-proprioceptive conflict produced through prismatic goggles, without affecting body ownership (unlike the RHI). In three experiments, participants looked at their own hand while wearing neutral or prismatic goggles (visual field shifted 20° leftwards). Meanwhile, they performed a concurrent counting tasks on interoceptive (Exp. 1–2: heart-beats; Exp. 3: breaths) or exteroceptive signals (pure-tones). A no-task condition was also included. We measured proprioceptive drift in each condition an indicator of illusion strength. All experiments documented a significant drift of perceived hand position after prism exposure. This bodily illusion, however, was never affected by the concurrent task, regardless of whether it involved interoceptive or exteroceptive signals. These result reveal that multisensory integration underlying body perception is unaffected by concurrent tasks capturing attentional resources, strongly suggesting a low-level and automatic phenomenon. Furthermore, they indicate that the origin of increased body malleability in individuals with low interoceptive awareness is not competition for attentional resources.

In: Seeing and Perceiving

In two behavioral experiments, we explored effects of long-term musical training on the implicit processing of temporal structures (rhythm, non-rhythm and meter), manipulating deviance detection under different conditions. We used a task that did not require an explicit processing of the temporal aspect of stimuli, as this was irrelevant for the task. In Experiment 1, we investigated whether long-term musical training results in a superior processing of auditory rhythm, and thus boosts the detection of auditory deviants inserted within rhythmic compared to non-rhythmic auditory series. In Experiment 2, we focused on the influence of the metrical positions of a rhythmic series, and we compared musicians and non-musicians’ responses to deviant sounds inserted on strong versus weak metrical positions. We hypothesized that musicians would show enhanced rhythmic processing as compared to non-musicians. Furthermore, we hypothesized that musicians’ expectancy level would differ more across metrical positions compared to non-musicians. In both experiments, musicians were faster and more sensitive than non-musicians. Although both groups were overall faster and showed a higher sensitivity for the detection of deviants in rhythmic compared to non-rhythmic series (Experiment 1), only musicians were faster in the detection of deviants on strong positions compared to weak ones (Experiment 2). While rhythm modulates deviance processing also in non-musicians, specific effects of long-term musical training arise when a refined comparison of hierarchical metrical positions is considered. This suggests that long-term musical training enhances sensitivity to the metrical structure and improves temporal prediction mechanisms, even during implicit processing of meter.

In: Timing & Time Perception


The understanding of linguistic messages can be made extremely complex by the simultaneous presence of interfering sounds, especially when they are also linguistic in nature. In two experiments, we tested if visual cues directing attention to spatial or temporal components of speech in noise can improve its identification. The hearing-in-noise task required identification of a five-digit sequence (target) embedded in a stream of time-reversed speech. Using a custom-built device located in front of the participant, we delivered visual cues to orient attention to the location of target sounds and/or their temporal window. In Exp. 1 ( n = 14 ), we validated this visual-to-auditory cueing method in normal-hearing listeners, tested under typical binaural listening conditions. In Exp. 2 ( n = 13 ), we assessed the efficacy of the same visual cues in normal-hearing listeners wearing a monaural ear plug, to study the effects of simulated monaural and conductive hearing loss on visual-to-auditory attention orienting. While Exp. 1 revealed a benefit of both spatial and temporal visual cues for hearing in noise, Exp. 2 showed that only the temporal visual cues remained effective during monaural listening. These findings indicate that when the acoustic experience is altered, visual-to-auditory attention orienting is more robust for temporal compared to spatial attributes of the auditory stimuli. These findings have implications for the relation between spatial and temporal attributes of sound objects, and when planning devices to orient audiovisual attention for subjects suffering from hearing loss.

In: Multisensory Research