Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The spatial rule of multisensory integration holds that cross-modal stimuli presented from the same spatial location result in enhanced multisensory integration. The present study investigated whether processing within the somatosensory cortex reflects the strength of cross-modal visuotactile interactions depending on the spatial relationship between visual and tactile stimuli. Visual stimuli were task-irrelevant and were presented simultaneously with touch in peripersonal and extrapersonal space, in the same or opposite hemispace with respect to the tactile stimuli. Participants directed their attention to one of their hands to detect infrequent tactile target stimuli at that hand while ignoring tactile targets at the unattended hand, all tactile nontarget stimuli, and any visual stimuli. Enhancement of ERPs recorded over and close to the somatosensory cortex was present as early as 100 msec after onset of stimuli (i.e., overlapping with the P100 component) when visual stimuli were presented next to the site of tactile stimulation (i.e., perihand space) compared to when these were presented at different locations in peripersonal or extrapersonal space. Therefore, this study provides electrophysiological support for the spatial rule of visual–tactile interaction in human participants. Importantly, these early cross-modal spatial effects occurred regardless of the locus of attention. In addition, and in line with previous research, we found attentional modulations of somatosensory processing only to be present in the time range of the N140 component and for longer latencies with an enhanced negativity for tactile stimuli at attended compared to unattended locations. Taken together, the pattern of the results from this study suggests that visuotactile spatial effects on somatosensory processing occur prior and independent of tactile–spatial attention.