How prior expectations shape multisensory perception

Remi Gau, Uta Noppeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The brain generates a representation of our environment by integrating signals from a common source, but segregating signals from different sources. This fMRI study investigated how the brain arbitrates between perceptual integration and segregation based on top-down congruency expectations and bottom-up stimulus-bound congruency cues. Participants were presented audiovisual movies of phonologically congruent, incongruent or McGurk syllables that can be integrated into an illusory percept (e.g. "ti" percept for visual «ki» with auditory /pi/). They reported the syllable they perceived. Critically, we manipulated participants' top-down congruency expectations by presenting McGurk stimuli embedded in blocks of congruent or incongruent syllables. Behaviorally, participants were more likely to fuse audiovisual signals into an illusory McGurk percept in congruent than incongruent contexts. At the neural level, the left inferior frontal sulcus (lIFS) showed increased activations for bottom-up incongruent relative to congruent inputs. Moreover, lIFS activations were increased for physically identical McGurk stimuli, when participants segregated the audiovisual signals and reported their auditory percept. Critically, this activation increase for perceptual segregation was amplified when participants expected audiovisually incongruent signals based on prior sensory experience. Collectively, our results demonstrate that the lIFS combines top-down prior (in)congruency expectations with bottom-up (in)congruency cues to arbitrate between multisensory integration and segregation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-86
Number of pages11
Issue numberPt A
Early online date28 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • fMRI
  • Multisensory perception
  • McGurk
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Causal inference
  • Crossmodal integration
  • Congruency
  • Learning
  • Perceptual illusion


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