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Neural mechanisms for the effect of prior knowledge on audiovisual integration


Zhang Y, Campos,  JL
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Liu, Q., Zhang Y, Campos, J., Zhang, Q., & Sun, H. (2011). Neural mechanisms for the effect of prior knowledge on audiovisual integration. Biological Psychology, 87(2), 200-208. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.02.006.

Converging evidence indicates that prior knowledge plays an important role in multisensory integration. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the processes with which prior knowledge is integrated with current sensory information remains unknown. In this study, we measured event-related potentials (ERPs) while manipulating prior knowledge using a novel visual letter recognition task in which auditory information was always presented simultaneously. The color of the letters was assigned to a particular probability of being associated with audiovisual congruency (e.g., green = high probability (HP) and blue = low probability (LP)). Results demonstrate that this prior began affecting reaction times to the congruent audiovisual stimuli at about the 900th trial. Consequently, the ERP data was analyzed in two phases: the “early phase” (<trial 600) and the “late phase” (>trial 900). The effects of prior knowledge were revealed through difference waveforms generated by subtracting the ERPs for the congruent audiovisual stimuli in the LP condition from those in the HP condition. A frontal-central probability effect (90–120 ms) was observed in the early phase. A right parietal-occipital probability effect (40–96 ms) and a frontal-central probability effect (170–200 ms) were observed in the late phase. The results suggest that during the initial acquisition of the knowledge about the probability of congruency, the brain assigned more attention to audiovisual stimuli for the LP condition. Following the acquisition of this prior knowledge, it was then used during early stages of visual processing and modulated the activity of multisensory cortical areas.