Section: New Results

Supramodal processing optimizes visual perceptual learning and plasticity

Participants : Philippe Ciuciu [correspondant] , Alexandre Gramfort.

Multisensory interactions are ubiquitous in cortex and it has been suggested that sensory cortices may be supramodal i.e. capable of functional selectivity irrespective of the sensory modality of inputs. Here, we asked whether learning to discriminate visual coherence could benefit from supramodal processing. To this end, three groups of participants were briefly trained to discriminate which of a red or green intermixed population of random-dot-kinematograms (RDKs) was most coherent in a visual display while being recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). During training, participants heard no sound (V), congruent acoustic textures (AV) or auditory noise (AVn); importantly, congruent acoustic textures shared the temporal statistics – i.e. coherence – of visual RDKs. After training, the AV group significantly outperformed participants trained in V and AVn although they were not aware of their progress. In pre- and post-training blocks, all participants were tested without sound and with the same set of RDKs. When contrasting MEG data collected in these experimental blocks, selective differences were observed in the dynamic pattern and the cortical loci responsive to visual RDKs. First and common to all three groups, vlPFC showed selectivity to the learned coherence levels whereas selectivity in visual motion area hMT+ was only seen for the AV group. Second and solely for the AV group, activity in multisensory cortices (mSTS, pSTS) correlated with post-training performances; additionally, the latencies of these effects suggested feedback from vlPFC to hMT+ possibly mediated by temporal cortices in AV and AVn groups. Altogether, we interpret our results in the context of the Reverse Hierarchy Theory of learning in which supramodal processing optimizes visual perceptual learning by capitalizing on sensory-invariant representations - here, global coherence levels across sensory modalities.

More details can be found in [25] .