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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01779

Eyes and Ears: cross-modal interference of tinnitus on visual processing

 Zhicheng Li1, 2,  Ruolei Gu3, Xiangli Zeng1*, Min Qi1, Jintian Cen1, Shuqi Zhang1, Jing Gu1 and  Qi Chen2*
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology head and neck surgery, Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, China
  • 2School of Psychology, South China Normal University, China
  • 3Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

The visual processing capacity of tinnitus patients is worse than normal controls, indicating cross-modal interference. However, the mechanism underlying the tinnitus-modulated visual processing is largely unclear. In order to explore the influence of tinnitus on visual processing, this study used a signal recognition paradigm to observe whether the tinnitus group would display a significantly longer reaction time in processing the letter symbols (Experiment 1) and emotional faces (Experiment 2) than the control group. Signal detection and signal recognition, which reflect the perceptual and conceptual aspects of visual processing respectively, were manipulated individually in different conditions to identify the pattern of the cross-modal interference of tinnitus. The results showed that the tinnitus group required a significantly prolonged reaction time in detecting and recognizing the letter symbols and emotional faces than the control group; meanwhile, no between-group difference was detected in signal encoding. In addition, any gender- and distress-modulated effects of processing were not found, suggesting the universality of the present findings. Finally, follow-up studies would be needed to explore the neural mechanism behind the decline in speed of visual processing. The positive emotional bias in tinnitus patients also needs to be further verified and discussed.

Keywords: Tinnitus, crossmodal, bottom-up attention, Reaction Time, letter recognition, emotional face processing

Received: 20 Apr 2018; Accepted: 03 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Yi Du, Institute of Psychology (CAS), China

Reviewed by:

William Sedley, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Klaus-Peter Hoffmann, University Hospitals of the Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Li, Gu, Zeng, Qi, Cen, Zhang, Gu and Chen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Prof. Xiangli Zeng, Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Department of Otolaryngology head and neck surgery, Guangzhou, China,
Prof. Qi Chen, School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China,