Auditory motion affects visual biological motion processing
The processing of biological motion is a critical, everyday task performed with remarkable efficiency by human sensory systems. Interest in this ability has focused to a large extent on biological motion processing in the visual modality (see, for example, Cutting, J. E., Moore, C., & Morrison, R. (1988). Masking the motions of human gait. Perception and Psychophysics, 44(4), 339-347). In naturalistic settings, however, it is often the case that biological motion is defined by input to more than one sensory modality. For this reason, here in a series of experiments we investigate behavioural correlates of multisensory, in particular audiovisual, integration in the processing of biological motion cues. More specifically, using a new psychophysical paradigm we investigate the effect of suprathreshold auditory motion on perceptions of visually defined biological motion. Unlike data from previous studies investigating audiovisual integration in linear motion processing [Meyer, G. F. & Wuerger, S. M. (2001). Cross-modal integration of auditory and visual motion signals. Neuroreport, 12(11), 2557-2560; Wuerger, S. M., Hofbauer, M., & Meyer, G. F. (2003). The integration of auditory and motion signals at threshold. Perception and Psychophysics, 65(8), 1188-1196; Alais, D. & Burr, D. (2004). No direction-specific bimodal facilitation for audiovisual motion detection. Cognitive Brain Research, 19, 185-194], we report the existence of direction-selective effects: relative to control (stationary) auditory conditions, auditory motion in the same direction as the visually defined biological motion target increased its detectability, whereas auditory motion in the opposite direction had the inverse effect. Our data suggest these effects do not arise through general shifts in visuo-spatial attention, but instead are a consequence of motion-sensitive, direction-tuned integration mechanisms that are, if not unique to biological visual motion, at least not common to all types of visual motion. Based on these data and evidence from neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies we discuss the neural mechanisms likely to underlie this effect.