The multisensory function of primary visual cortex in humans
AUTHORS: Murray MM, Thelen A, Thut G, Romei V, Martuzzi R, Matusz PJ
Neuropsychologia, 83: 161-169, March 2016
It has been nearly 10 years since Ghazanfar and Schroeder (2006) proposed that the neocortex is essentially multisensory in nature. However, it is only recently that sufficient and hard evidence that supports this proposal has accrued. We review evidence that activity within the human primary visual cortex plays an active role in multisensory processes and directly impacts behavioural outcome. This evidence emerges from a full pallet of human brain imaging and brain mapping methods with which multisensory processes are quantitatively assessed by taking advantage of particular strengths of each technique as well as advances in signal analyses. Several general conclusions about multisensory processes in primary visual cortex of humans are supported relatively solidly. First, haemodynamic methods (fMRI/PET) show that there is both convergence and integration occurring within primary visual cortex. Second, primary visual cortex is involved in multisensory processes during early post-stimulus stages (as revealed by EEG/ERP/ERFs as well as TMS). Third, multisensory effects in primary visual cortex directly impact behaviour and perception, as revealed by correlational (EEG/ERPs/ERFs) as well as more causal measures (TMS/tACS). While the provocative claim of Ghazanfar and Schroeder (2006) that the whole of neocortex is multisensory in function has yet to be demonstrated, this can now be considered established in the case of the human primary visual cortex.