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The development of audio-visual integration for temporal judgements

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Adults combine information from different sensory modalities to estimate object properties such as size or location. This process is optimal in that (i) sensory information is weighted according to relative reliability: more reliable estimates have more influence on the combined estimate and (ii) the combined estimate is more reliable than the component uni-modal estimates. Previous studies suggest that optimal sensory integration does not emerge until around 10 years of age. Younger children rely on a single modality or combine information using inappropriate sensory weights.

Children aged 4-11 and adults completed a simple audio-visual task in which they reported either the number of beeps or the number of flashes in uni-modal and bi-modal conditions. In bi-modal trials, beeps and flashes differed in number by 0, 1 or 2.

Mutual interactions between the sensory signals were evident at all ages: the reported number of flashes was influenced by the number of simultaneously presented beeps and vice versa. Furthermore, for all ages, the relative strength of these interactions was predicted by the relative reliabilities of the two modalities, in other words, all observers weighted the signals appropriately.
The degree of cross-modal interaction decreased with age: the youngest observers could not ignore the task-irrelevant modality – they fully combined vision and audition such that they perceived equal numbers of flashes and beeps for bi-modal stimuli. Older observers showed much smaller effects of the task-irrelevant modality.

Do these interactions reflect optimal integration? Full or partial cross-modal integration predicts improved reliability in bi-modal conditions. In contrast, switching between modalities reduces reliability. Model comparison suggests that older observers employed partial integration, whereas younger observers (up to around 8 years) did not integrate, but followed a sub-optimal switching strategy, responding according to either visual or auditory information on each trial.

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Adams, Wendy J. (2016) The development of audio-visual integration for temporal judgements PLoS Computational Biology (doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004865).

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Accepted/In Press date: 14 March 2016
Published date: 14 April 2016


Local EPrints ID: 389779
ISSN: 1553-734X
PURE UUID: 75a17fd8-adc6-4921-a632-4b14c0ce67e1
ORCID for Wendy J. Adams: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 15 Mar 2016 10:18
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:32

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