Audiovisual integration of speech falters under high attention demands

TitleAudiovisual integration of speech falters under high attention demands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsAlsius A, Navarra J, Campbell R, Soto-Faraco S
JournalCurrent Biology
Date Published05/2005
KeywordsAcoustic Stimulation, Adult, Attention, Attention: physiology, Auditory Perception, Auditory Perception: physiology, Humans, Illusions, Illusions: physiology, Memory, Memory: physiology, Photic Stimulation, Spain, Speech Perception, Speech Perception: physiology, Task Performance and Analysis, Visual Perception, Visual Perception: physiology

One of the most commonly cited examples of human multisensory integration occurs during exposure to natural speech, when the vocal and the visual aspects of the signal are integrated in a unitary percept. Audiovisual association of facial gestures and vocal sounds has been demonstrated in nonhuman primates and in prelinguistic children, arguing for a general basis for this capacity. One critical question, however, concerns the role of attention in such multisensory integration. Although both behavioral and neurophysiological studies have converged on a preattentive conceptualization of audiovisual speech integration, this mechanism has rarely been measured under conditions of high attentional load, when the observers' attention resources are depleted. We tested the extent to which audiovisual integration was modulated by the amount of available attentional resources by measuring the observers' susceptibility to the classic McGurk illusion in a dual-task paradigm. The proportion of visually influenced responses was severely, and selectively, reduced if participants were concurrently performing an unrelated visual or auditory task. In contrast with the assumption that crossmodal speech integration is automatic, our results suggest that these multisensory binding processes are subject to attentional demands.