Visual cortex responds to sound onset and offset during passive listening

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Journal of neurophysiology


Sounds enhance our ability to detect, localize, and respond to co-occurring visual targets. Research suggests that sounds improve visual processing by resetting the phase of ongoing oscillations in visual cortex. However, it remains unclear what information is relayed from the auditory system to visual areas and if sounds modulate visual activity even in the absence of visual stimuli (e.g., during passive listening). Using intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) in humans, we examined the sensitivity of visual cortex to three forms of auditory information during a passive listening task: auditory onset responses, auditory offset responses, and rhythmic entrainment to sounds. Because some auditory neurons respond to both sound onsets and offsets, visual timing and duration processing may benefit from each. In addition, if auditory entrainment information is relayed to visual cortex, it could support the processing of complex stimulus dynamics that are aligned between auditory and visual stimuli. Results demonstrate that in visual cortex, amplitude-modulated sounds elicited transient onset and offset responses in multiple areas, but no entrainment to sound modulation frequencies. These findings suggest that activity in visual cortex (as measured with iEEG in response to auditory stimuli) may not be affected by temporally fine-grained auditory stimulus dynamics during passive listening (though it remains possible that this signal may be observable with simultaneous auditory-visual stimuli). Moreover, auditory responses were maximal in low-level visual cortex, potentially implicating a direct pathway for rapid interactions between auditory and visual cortices. This mechanism may facilitate perception by time-locking visual computations to environmental events marked by auditory discontinuities.

Medical Subject Headings

Acoustic Stimulation; Auditory Cortex; Auditory Perception; Humans; Sound; Visual Cortex; Visual Perception

PubMed ID



ePub ahead of print





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