AUTHORS: Thelen A, Talsma D, Murray MM

Cognition, 138: 148-60, May 2015


Multisensory memory traces established via single-trial exposures can impact subsequent visual object recognition. This impact appears to depend on the meaningfulness of the initial multisensory pairing, implying that multisensory exposures establish distinct object representations that are accessible during later unisensory processing. Multisensory contexts may be particularly effective in influencing auditory discrimination, given the purportedly inferior recognition memory in this sensory modality. The possibility of this generalization and the equivalence of effects when memory discrimination was being performed in the visual vs. auditory modality were at the focus of this study. First, we demonstrate that visual object discrimination is affected by the context of prior multisensory encounters, replicating and extending previous findings by controlling for the probability of multisensory contexts during initial as well as repeated object presentations. Second, we provide the first evidence that single-trial multisensory memories impact subsequent auditory object discrimination. Auditory object discrimination was enhanced when initial presentations entailed semantically congruent multisensory pairs and was impaired after semantically incongruent multisensory encounters, compared to sounds that had been encountered only in a unisensory manner. Third, the impact of single-trial multisensory memories upon unisensory object discrimination was greater when the task was performed in the auditory vs. visual modality. Fourth, there was no evidence for correlation between effects of past multisensory experiences on visual and auditory processing, suggestive of largely independent object processing mechanisms between modalities. We discuss these findings in terms of the conceptual short term memory (CSTM) model and predictive coding. Our results suggest differential recruitment and modulation of conceptual memory networks according to the sensory task at hand.

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