Multisensory interactions within human primary cortices revealed by BOLD dynamics
AUTHORS: Martuzzi R, Murray MM, Michel CM, Thiran JP, Maeder PP, Clarke S, Meuli RA
Cerebral Cortex, 17(7): 1672-9, July 2007
Whether signals from different sensory modalities converge and interact within primary cortices in humans is unresolved, despite emerging evidence in animals. This is partially because of debates concerning the appropriate analyses of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in response to multisensory phenomena. Using event-related fMRI, we observed that simple auditory stimuli (noise bursts) activated primary visual cortices and that simple visual stimuli (checkerboards) activated primary auditory cortices, indicative of multisensory convergence. Moreover, analyses of blood oxygen level-dependent response dynamics revealed facilitation of hemodynamic response peak latencies and slopes for multisensory auditory-visual stimuli versus either unisensory condition, indicative of multisensory interactions within primary sensory cortices. Neural processing at the lowest cortical levels can be modulated by interactions between the senses. Temporal information in fMRI data can reveal these modulations and overcome analytic and interpretational challenges of more traditional procedures. In addition to providing an essential translational link with animal models, these results suggest that longstanding notions of cortical organization need to be revised to include multisensory interactions as an inherent component of functional brain organization.