Cross-modal decoupling in temporal attention

TitleCross-modal decoupling in temporal attention
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMühlberg S, Oriolo G, Soto-Faraco S
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Date Published04/2014
Keywordsbehaviour, Cross-modal, temporal attention, Touch, Vision

Prior studies have repeatedly reported behavioural benefits to events occurring at attended, compared to unattended, points in time. It has been suggested that, as for spatial orienting, temporal orienting of attention spreads across sensory modalities in a synergistic fashion. However, the consequences of cross-modal temporal orienting of attention remain poorly understood. One challenge is that the passage of time leads to an increase in event predictability throughout a trial, thus making it difficult to interpret possible effects (or lack thereof). Here we used a design that avoids complete temporal predictability to investigate whether attending to a sensory modality (vision or touch) at a point in time confers beneficial access to events in the other, non-attended, sensory modality (touch or vision, respectively). In contrast to previous studies and to what happens with spatial attention, we found that events in one (unattended) modality do not automatically benefit from happening at the time point when another modality is expected. Instead, it seems that attention can be deployed in time with relative independence for different sensory modalities. Based on these findings, we argue that temporal orienting of attention can be cross-modally decoupled in order to flexibly react according to the environmental demands, and that the efficiency of this selective decoupling unfolds in time.