Is the auditory sensory memory sensitive to visual information?
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The mismatch negativity (MMN) component of auditory event-related brain potentials can be used as a probe to study the representation of sounds in auditory sensory memory (ASM). Yet it has been shown that an auditory MMN can also be elicited by an illusory auditory deviance induced by visual changes. This suggests that some visual information may be encoded in ASM and is accessible to the auditory MMN process. It is not known, however, whether visual information affects ASM representation for any audiovisual event or whether this phenomenon is limited to specific domains in which strong audiovisual illusions occur. To highlight this issue, we have compared the topographies of MMNs elicited by non-speech audiovisual stimuli deviating from audiovisual standards on the visual, the auditory, or both dimensions. Contrary to what occurs with audiovisual illusions, each unimodal deviant elicited sensory-specific MMNs, and the MMN to audiovisual deviants included both sensory components. The visual MMN was, however, different from a genuine visual MMN obtained in a visual-only control oddball paradigm, suggesting that auditory and visual information interacts before the MMN process occurs. Furthermore, the MMN to audiovisual deviants was significantly different from the sum of the two sensory-specific MMNs, showing that the processes of visual and auditory change detection are not completely independent.
KeywordsElectrophysiology Audiovisual MMN Multisensory integration Memory
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