Multisensory congruency as a mechanism for attentional control over perceptual selection

Raymond Van Ee, Jeroen J.A. Van Boxtel, Amanda L. Parker, David Alais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


The neural mechanisms underlying attentional selection of competing neural signals for awareness remains an unresolved issue. We studied attentional selection, using perceptually ambiguous stimuli in a novel multisensory paradigm that combined competing auditory and competing visual stimuli. We demonstrate that the ability to select, and attentively hold, one of the competing alternatives in either sensory modality is greatly enhanced when there is a matching cross-modal stimulus. Intriguingly, this multimodal enhancement of attentional selection seems to require a conscious act of attention, as passively experiencing the multisensory stimuli did not enhance control over the stimulus. We also demonstrate that congruent auditory or tactile information, and combined auditory-tactile information, aids attentional control over competing visual stimuli and visa versa. Our data suggest a functional role for recently found neurons that combine voluntarily initiated attentional functions across sensory modalities. We argue that these units provide a mechanism for structuring multisensory inputs that are then used to selectively modulate early (unimodal) cortical processing, boosting the gain of task-relevant features for willful control over perceptual awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11641-11649
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2009
Externally publishedYes


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