Thursday, August 28, 2008

Direction of Visual Apparent Motion Driven Solely by Timing of a Static Sound

Elliot Freeman, and Jon Driver
Current Biology, Vol 18, 1262-1266, 26 August 2008

In temporal ventriloquism, auditory events can illusorily attract perceived timing of a visual onset [1, 2, 3]. We investigated whether timing of a static sound can also influence spatio-temporal processing of visual apparent motion, induced here by visual bars alternating between opposite hemifields. Perceived direction typically depends on the relative interval in timing between visual left-right and right-left flashes (e.g., rightwards motion dominating when left-to-right interflash intervals are shortest [4]). In our new multisensory condition, interflash intervals were equal, but auditory beeps could slightly lag the right flash, yet slightly lead the left flash, or vice versa. This auditory timing strongly influenced perceived visual motion direction, despite providing no spatial auditory motion signal whatsoever. Moreover, prolonged adaptation to such auditorily driven apparent motion produced a robust visual motion aftereffect in the opposite direction, when measured in subsequent silence. Control experiments argued against accounts in terms of possible auditory grouping, or possible attention capture. We suggest that the motion arises because the sounds change perceived visual timing, as we separately confirmed. Our results provide a new demonstration of multisensory influences on sensory-specific perception [5], with timing of a static sound influencing spatio-temporal processing of visual motion direction.

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