Research Topic

A matter of bottom-up or top-down processes: the role of attention in multisensory integration

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The integration of information from various sensory modalities influences behaviour. It can induce behavioural benefits such as faster reaction time and enhanced detection of noisy signals but may also produce illusions, all of which are characterized by specific neuronal signatures. Yet, while these effects ...

The integration of information from various sensory modalities influences behaviour. It can induce behavioural benefits such as faster reaction time and enhanced detection of noisy signals but may also produce illusions, all of which are characterized by specific neuronal signatures. Yet, while these effects of multisensory integration are largely accepted, the role of attention in this process is still the object of intense debate. On one hand, it has been suggested that attention may guide multisensory integration in a top-down fashion by selection of specific inputs out of the plethora of information in our environment. On the other hand, there is evidence that integration can occur in a bottom-up manner, based on temporal and spatial correlation, and outside the focus of attention. An extreme example is the multisensory enhancement of neural responses in anesthetised animals.

It is therefore necessary to clarify the role that attention plays in our experience of a coherent, multisensory world. Attention itself is not a unitary construct, and may refer to a range of different selection mechanisms. Therefore, the interplay between attention and multisensory integration can take many forms which explain, in part, the diversity of findings and the apparent contradictions. The goal of this Research Topic is to help clarify the picture by trying to answer the following question from various perspectives: under which circumstances does multisensory integration take place without attention and when does attention determine the fate of multisensory integration? Many other questions can derive from this one: What form of attention modulates multisensory integration? More specifically, will sensory signals from various modalities be integrated even if they are task-irrelevant? Does directed attention expand the spatiotemporal integration window, i.e. are stimuli which do not coincide in time or space still integrated if attention is directed towards them? Does the attentional influence differ along the cortical hierarchy? What is the role of attention in cross-modal predictions?

This Frontiers Research Topic aims to provide a platform to discuss the contribution of attention to multisensory integration. We welcome original research reports ranging from animal neurophysiology through experimental psychology to human neuroimaging and computational modeling, as well as reviews, perspectives and opinion articles.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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