Vision Research 2004; 44: 1907-1917
Bhavin R. Sheth, Shinsuke Shimojo
Disappearance phenomena, in which salient visual stimuli do not register consciously, have been known to occur. Recovery from such phenomena typically occurs through change in some visual attribute, such as increase in luminance contrast or stimulus duration. Thus far, there have been no reports of cross-modal modulation of disappearance phenomena. In particular, what effect a cross-modal attentional cue has on sensory suppression is unknown. Here, we show that an adapted, flickered visual target that is synchronous with a brief sound appears more vivid than a similarly adapted, otherwise identical, visual target that is offset in time by more than 200 ms from the auditory cue. We argue that the brief auditory stimuli momentarily boost the concurrent signal of the adapted visual stimulus at a site downstream of the visual adaptation, thus causing the transient recovery from the visual adaptation. Repetitive visual cues cause significantly less recovery from visual adaptation than repetitive auditory cues, implying that there are functions a cross-modal cue can perform that a cue of the same modality cannot. Moreover repetitive auditory cues selectively prevent synchronous visual targets from undergoing visual adaptation. Ours is the first report of cross-modal modulation of a disappearance phenomenon.