Behavioural benefits of multisensory processing in ferrets.
Hammond-Kenny A., Bajo VM., King AJ., Nodal FR.
Enhanced detection and discrimination, along with faster reaction times, are the most typical behavioural manifestations of the brain's capacity to integrate multisensory signals arising from the same object. In this study, we examined whether multisensory behavioural gains are observable across different components of the localization response that are potentially under the command of distinct brain regions. We measured the ability of ferrets to localize unisensory (auditory or visual) and spatiotemporally coincident auditory-visual stimuli of different durations that were presented from one of seven locations spanning the frontal hemifield. During the localization task, we recorded the head movements made following stimulus presentation, as a metric for assessing the initial orienting response of the ferrets, as well as the subsequent choice of which target location to approach to receive a reward. Head-orienting responses to auditory-visual stimuli were more accurate and faster than those made to visual but not auditory targets, suggesting that these movements were guided principally by sound alone. In contrast, approach-to-target localization responses were more accurate and faster to spatially congruent auditory-visual stimuli throughout the frontal hemifield than to either visual or auditory stimuli alone. Race model inequality analysis of head-orienting reaction times and approach-to-target response times indicates that different processes, probability summation and neural integration, respectively, are likely to be responsible for the effects of multisensory stimulation on these two measures of localization behaviour.