, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 802-816

Spatial and temporal factors determine auditory-visual interactions in human saccadic eye movements

Abstract

In this paper, we show that human saccadic eye movements toward a visual target are generated with a reduced latency when this target is spatially and temporally aligned with an irrelevant auditory nontarget. This effect gradually disappears if the temporal and/or spatial alignment of the visual and auditory stimuli are changed. When subjects are able to accurately localize the auditory stimulus in two dimensions, the spatial dependence of the reduction in latency depends on the actual radial distance between the auditory and the visual stimulus. If, however, only the azimuth of the sound source can be determined by the subjects, the horizontal target separation determines the strength of the interaction. Neither saccade accuracy nor saccade kinematics were affected in these paradigms. We propose that, in addition to an aspecific warning signal, the reduction of saccadic latency is due to interactions that take place at a multimodal stage of saccade programming, where theperceived positions of visual and auditory stimuli are represented in a common frame of reference. This hypothesis is in agreement with our finding that the saccades often are initially directed to the average position of the visual and the auditory target, provided that their spatial separation is not too large. Striking similarities with electrophysiological findings on multisensory interactions in the deep layers of the midbrain superior colliculus are discussed.

This work was supported by the University of Nijmegen and the Mucom II program (6615) of the European ESPRIT initiative (M.A.F. and A.J.V.O.).