The Curious Incident of Attention in Multisensory Integration: Bottom-up vs. Top-down

Emiliano MacAluso, Uta Noppeney, Durk Talsma, Tiziana Vercillo, Jess Hartcher-O'Brien, Ruth Adam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
382 Downloads (Pure)


The role attention plays in our experience of a coherent, multisensory world is still controversial. On the one hand, a subset of inputs may be selected for detailed processing and multisensory integration in a top-down manner, i.e., guidance of multisensory integration by attention. On the other hand, stimuli may be integrated in a bottom-up fashion according to low-level properties such as spatial coincidence, thereby capturing attention. Moreover, attention itself is multifaceted and can be described via both top-down and bottom-up mechanisms. Thus, the interaction between attention and multisensory integration is complex and situation-dependent. The authors of this opinion paper are researchers who have contributed to this discussion from behavioural, computational and neurophysiological perspectives. We posed a series of questions, the goal of which was to illustrate the interplay between bottom-up and top-down processes in various multisensory scenarios in order to clarify the standpoint taken by each author and with the hope of reaching a consensus. Although divergence of viewpoint emerges in the current responses, there is also considerable overlap: In general, it can be concluded that the amount of influence that attention exerts on MSI depends on the current task as well as prior knowledge and expectations of the observer. Moreover stimulus properties such as the reliability and salience also determine how open the processing is to influences of attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-583
Number of pages27
JournalMultisensory Research
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Bayesian causal inference
  • endogenous
  • predictive coding
  • salience
  • stimulus-driven

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Ophthalmology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Sensory Systems
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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