Feeling what you hear: auditory signals can modulate tactile tap perception


We tested whether auditory sequences of beeps can modulate the tactile perception of sequences of taps (two to four taps per sequence) delivered to the index fingertip. In the first experiment, the auditory and tactile sequences were presented simultaneously. The number of beeps delivered in the auditory sequence were either the same as, less than, or more than the number of taps of the simultaneously presented tactile sequence. Though task-irrelevant (subjects were instructed to focus on the tactile stimuli), the auditory stimuli systematically modulated subjects’ tactile perception; in other words subjects’ responses depended significantly on the number of delivered beeps. Such modulation only occurred when the auditory and tactile stimuli were similar enough. In the second experiment, we tested whether the automatic auditory-tactile integration depends on simultaneity or whether a bias can be evoked when the auditory and tactile sequence are presented in temporal asynchrony. Audition significantly modulated tactile perception when the stimuli were presented simultaneously but this effect gradually disappeared when a temporal asynchrony was introduced between auditory and tactile stimuli. These results show that when provided with auditory and tactile sensory signals that are likely to be generated by the same stimulus, the central nervous system (CNS) tends to automatically integrate these signals.


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