Rhythmic modulation of visual perception by continuous rhythmic auditory stimulation
Bauer A-K., van Ede F., Quinn A., Nobre A.
At any given moment our sensory systems receive multiple, often rhythmic, inputs from the environment. Processing of temporally structured events in one sensory modality can guide both behavioural and neural processing of events in other sensory modalities, but how this occurs remains unclear. Here, we used human electroencephalography (EEG) to test the cross-modal influences of a continuous auditory frequency-modulated (FM) sound on visual perception and visual cortical activity. We report systematic fluctuations in perceptual discrimination of brief visual stimuli in line with the phase of the FM sound. We further show that this rhythmic modulation in visual perception is related to an accompanying rhythmic modulation of neural activity recorded over visual areas. Importantly, in our task, perceptual and neural visual modulations occurred without any abrupt and salient onsets in the energy of the auditory stimulation and without any rhythmic structure in the visual stimulus. As such, the results provide a critical validation for the existence and functional role of cross-modal entrainment and demonstrates its utility for organising the perception of multisensory stimulation in the natural environment. <h4>Highlights</h4> cross-modal influences are mediated by the synchronisation of neural oscillations visual performance fluctuates in line with the phase of a frequency-modulated sound cross-modal entrainment of neural activity predicts fluctuation in visual performance cross-modal entrainment organises perception of multisensory stimuli