Ten Years at the Multisensory Forum: Musings on the Evolution of a Field

Program in Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, The City College of the City University of New York, 138th St. & Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031, USA.
Brain Topography (Impact Factor: 2.52). 06/2009; 21(3-4):149-54. DOI: 10.1007/s10548-009-0102-9
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Research on all things multisensory has literally exploded since the inception of the International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF) conference at Oxford in 1999. Here we find ourselves at the 10th annual meeting, for the second time in New York, with a wealth of data from which we will work to gain insights into the mechanisms by which the brain deals with and benefits from multisensory inputs. We have taken this opportunity for some musings on what the last 10 years have taught us, and where we think the field may be heading in the years to come. Our ramblings will be necessarily biased and incomplete and for this we apologize in advance. We also take the opportunity to highlight some of the clinical translational work that is now being done in the field, and to emphasize the importance and potency of translating findings from the basic research domain to diagnostic and clinical applications.

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Available from: John J Foxe, Jul 28, 2015
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    • "This latter class of multisensory prosodic information provides a large part of the socially relevant content in the speech signal, and it has been known for decades now that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have significant deficits in extracting this class of information (Kujala et al. 2005; Paul et al. 2005). It is also the case that basic unisensory processing disturbances have been seen in ASD (Fiebelkorn et al. 2013), and it is not surprising then that researchers have asked whether some of these social communication deficits might not arise from a more basic deficit in multisensory integration processes (Iarocci and McDonald 2006; Foxe and Molholm 2009). For example, recent electrophysiological work has pointed to deficits in the integration of simple somatosensory and auditory inputs in high-functioning ASD children (Russo et al. 2010), as well as deficits in the processing of fundamental audiovisual inputs (Brandwein et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Under noisy listening conditions, visualizing a speaker's articulations substantially improves speech intelligibility. This multisensory speech integration ability is crucial to effective communication, and the appropriate development of this capacity greatly impacts a child's ability to successfully navigate educational and social settings. Research shows that multisensory integration abilities continue developing late into childhood. The primary aim here was to track the development of these abilities in children with autism, since multisensory deficits are increasingly recognized as a component of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) phenotype. The abilities of high-functioning ASD children (n = 84) to integrate seen and heard speech were assessed cross-sectionally, while environmental noise levels were systematically manipulated, comparing them with age-matched neurotypical children (n = 142). Severe integration deficits were uncovered in ASD, which were increasingly pronounced as background noise increased. These deficits were evident in school-aged ASD children (5-12 year olds), but were fully ameliorated in ASD children entering adolescence (13-15 year olds). The severity of multisensory deficits uncovered has important implications for educators and clinicians working in ASD. We consider the observation that the multisensory speech system recovers substantially in adolescence as an indication that it is likely amenable to intervention during earlier childhood, with potentially profound implications for the development of social communication abilities in ASD children.
    Cerebral Cortex 08/2013; 25(2). DOI:10.1093/cercor/bht213 · 8.67 Impact Factor
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    • "That said, it is possible that more ecologically valid stimuli and/or a more challenging task than the one employed here might bring out " workaround " strategies in the children with autism that allow them to compensate for these early impairments in automatic multisensory processing. Though highly speculative, it may be that for important functions such as speech recognition, compensatory processes involving frontal lobe development (e.g., improvements in executive function) contribute to the " catching up " observed in some behavioral studies of AV integration in ASD over childhood (Foxe et al. 2009; Taylor et al. 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Successful integration of auditory and visual inputs is crucial for both basic perceptual functions and for higher-order processes related to social cognition. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social cognition and are associated with abnormalities in sensory and perceptual processes. Several groups have reported that individuals with ASD are impaired in their ability to integrate socially relevant audiovisual (AV) information, and it has been suggested that this contributes to the higher-order social and cognitive deficits observed in ASD. However, successful integration of auditory and visual inputs also influences detection and perception of nonsocial stimuli, and integration deficits may impair earlier stages of information processing, with cascading downstream effects. To assess the integrity of basic AV integration, we recorded high-density electrophysiology from a cohort of high-functioning children with ASD (7-16 years) while they performed a simple AV reaction time task. Children with ASD showed considerably less behavioral facilitation to multisensory inputs, deficits that were paralleled by less effective neural integration. Evidence for processing differences relative to typically developing children was seen as early as 100 ms poststimulation, and topographic analysis suggested that children with ASD relied on different cortical networks during this early multisensory processing stage.
    Cerebral Cortex 06/2013; 23(6):1329-41. DOI:10.1093/cercor/bhs109 · 8.67 Impact Factor
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    • "Additional research will have to consider how temporal intersensory processing varies across subpopulations and how individuals within these groups relate to those with typical development who are typically developed or to those who are both developmentally impaired and non-autistic. Although the exact causes of our findings are speculative, they are in line with the majority of ASD studies on MSI which show that individuals with ASD have altered MSI (de Gelder et al., 1991; Bebko et al., 2006; Kern et al., 2007; Smith and Bennetto, 2007; Magnée et al., 2008; Mongillo et al., 2008; Oberman and Ramachandran, 2008; Foxe and Molholm, 2009; Russo et al., 2010), or altered multisensory temporal function (Foss-Feig et al., 2010; Kwakye et al., 2011). Further research is clearly needed to examine and characterize multisensory processes in ASD in more detail and this may ultimately lead to a broader and better understanding and diagnosis of this disorder. "
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    ABSTRACT: We examined sensitivity of audiovisual temporal order in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using an audiovisual temporal order judgment (TOJ) task. In order to assess domain-specific impairments, the stimuli varied in social complexity from simple flash/beeps to videos of a handclap or a speaking face. Compared to typically-developing controls, individuals with ASD were generally less sensitive in judgments of audiovisual temporal order (larger just noticeable differences, JNDs), but there was no specific impairment with social stimuli. This suggests that people with ASD suffer from a more general impairment in audiovisual temporal processing.
    Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 02/2013; 7:8. DOI:10.3389/fnint.2013.00008
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