Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The processing of auditory spatial information in cortical areas of the human brain outside of the primary auditory cortex remains poorly understood. Here we investigated the role of the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and the occipital cortex (OC) in spatial hearing using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The right STG is known to be of crucial importance for visual spatial awareness, and has been suggested to be involved in auditory spatial perception. We found that rTMS of the right STG induced a systematic error in the perception of interaural time differences (a primary cue for sound localization in the azimuthal plane). This is in accordance with the recent view, based on both neurophysio-logical data obtained in monkeys and human neuroimaging studies, that information on sound location is processed within a dorsolateral “where” stream including the caudal STG. A similar, but opposite, auditory shift was obtained after rTMS of secondary visual areas of the right OC. Processing of auditory information in the OC has previously been shown to exist only in blind persons. Thus, the latter finding provides the first evidence of an involvement of the visual cortex in spatial hearing in sighted human subjects, and suggests a close interconnection of the neural representation of auditory and visual space. Because rTMS induced systematic shifts in auditory lateralization, but not a general deterioration, we propose that rTMS of STG or OC specifically affected neuronal circuits transforming auditory spatial coordinates in order to maintain alignment with vision.