Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The Müller-Lyer illusion occurs both in vision and in touch, and transfers cross-modally from vision to haptics [Mancini, F., Bricolo, E., & Vallar, G. Multisensory integration in the Müller-Lyer illusion: From vision to haptics. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 818–830, 2010]. Recent evidence suggests that the neural underpinnings of the Müller-Lyer illusion in the visual modality involve the bilateral lateral occipital complex (LOC) and right superior parietal cortex (SPC). Conversely, the neural correlates of the haptic and cross-modal illusions have never been investigated previously. Here we used repetitive TMS (rTMS) to address the causal role of the regions activated by the visual illusion in the generation of the visual, haptic, and cross-modal visuo-haptic illusory effects, investigating putative modality-specific versus cross-modal underlying processes. rTMS was administered to the right and the left hemisphere, over occipito-temporal cortex or SPC. rTMS over left and right occipito-temporal cortex impaired both unisensory (visual, haptic) and cross-modal processing of the illusion in a similar fashion. Conversely, rTMS interference over left and right SPC did not affect the illusion in any modality. These results demonstrate the causal involvement of bilateral occipito-temporal cortex in the representation of the visual, haptic, and cross-modal Müller-Lyer illusion, in favor of the hypothesis of shared underlying processes. This indicates that occipito-temporal cortex plays a cross-modal role in perception both of illusory and nonillusory shapes.