Multisensory effects on somatosensation: a trimodal visuo-vestibular-tactile interaction
Vestibular information about self-motion is combined with other sensory signals. Previous research described both visuo-vestibular and vestibular-tactile bilateral interactions, but the simultaneous interaction between all three sensory modalities has not been explored. Here we exploit a previously reported visuo-vestibular integration to investigate multisensory effects on tactile sensitivity in humans. Tactile sensitivity was measured during passive whole body rotations alone or in conjunction with optic flow, creating either purely vestibular or visuo-vestibular sensations of self-motion. Our results demonstrate that tactile sensitivity is modulated by perceived self-motion, as provided by a combined visuo-vestibular percept, and not by the visual and vestibular cues independently. We propose a hierarchical multisensory interaction that underpins somatosensory modulation: visual and vestibular cues are first combined to produce a multisensory self-motion percept. Somatosensory processing is then enhanced according to the degree of perceived self-motion.