Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In many everyday listening situations, an otherwise audible sound may go unnoticed amid multiple other sounds. This auditory phenomenon, called informational masking (IM), is sensitive to visual input and involves early (50–250 msec) activity in the auditory cortex (the so-called awareness-related negativity). It is still unclear whether and how the timing of visual input influences the neural correlates of IM in auditory cortex. To address this question, we obtained simultaneous behavioral and neural measures of IM from human listeners in the presence of a visual input stream and varied the asynchrony between the visual stream and the rhythmic auditory target stream (in-phase, antiphase, or random). Results show effects of cross-modal asynchrony on both target detectability (RT and sensitivity) and the awareness-related negativity measured with EEG, which were driven primarily by antiphasic audiovisual stimuli. The neural effect was limited to the interval shortly before listeners' behavioral report of the target. Our results indicate that the relative timing of visual input can influence the IM of a target sound in the human auditory cortex. They further show that this audiovisual influence occurs early during the perceptual buildup of the target sound. In summary, these findings provide novel insights into the interaction of IM and multisensory interaction in the human brain.