Medical Bionics - Research Publications

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    The Impact of Spatial Incongruence on an Auditory-Visual Illusion
    Innes-Brown, H ; Crewther, D ; Louis, M (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-07-31)
    BACKGROUND: The sound-induced flash illusion is an auditory-visual illusion--when a single flash is presented along with two or more beeps, observers report seeing two or more flashes. Previous research has shown that the illusion gradually disappears as the temporal delay between auditory and visual stimuli increases, suggesting that the illusion is consistent with existing temporal rules of neural activation in the superior colliculus to multisensory stimuli. However little is known about the effect of spatial incongruence, and whether the illusion follows the corresponding spatial rule. If the illusion occurs less strongly when auditory and visual stimuli are separated, then integrative processes supporting the illusion must be strongly dependant on spatial congruence. In this case, the illusion would be consistent with both the spatial and temporal rules describing response properties of multisensory neurons in the superior colliculus. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The main aim of this study was to investigate the importance of spatial congruence in the flash-beep illusion. Selected combinations of one to four short flashes and zero to four short 3.5 KHz tones were presented. Observers were asked to count the number of flashes they saw. After replication of the basic illusion using centrally-presented stimuli, the auditory and visual components of the illusion stimuli were presented either both 10 degrees to the left or right of fixation (spatially congruent) or on opposite (spatially incongruent) sides, for a total separation of 20 degrees. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The sound-induced flash fission illusion was successfully replicated. However, when the sources of the auditory and visual stimuli were spatially separated, perception of the illusion was unaffected, suggesting that the "spatial rule" does not extend to describing behavioural responses in this illusion. We also find no evidence for an associated "fusion" illusion reportedly occurring when multiple flashes are accompanied by a single beep.