Restoring sensory unity: Unifying spatial vision and hearing through multisensory recalibration.

Summary

Every day, our different senses are bombarded with information. Our brain has the fascinating ability to combine sensory inputs that belong together through the process of multisensory integration (MSI). For example, we cannot only see where a bird is, but also hear where it is. This greatly enhances spatial localization and identification of information in the environment making MSI an essential function to efficiently perceive and act upon the world.

Unfortunately, sight and hearing are vulnerable to aging, trauma, and disease. Whereas age-related hearing loss affects half of all senior citizens, teenagers are particularly susceptible to hearing damage caused by personal audio players. Nearly 15% will experience asymmetrical hearing loss (AHL), distorting sound localization. This causes where we hear and where we see an object to be in a conflict. However, the brain can improve sound localization by adjusting how sounds are processed using information from unimpaired senses. This adjustment (recalibration) might resolve spatial conflict between the senses over time. This research will reveal how sensory changes affect MSI, the role of recalibration in restoring MSI after sensory changes, and where in the brain recalibration takes place.

I will investigate multisensory recalibration and elucidate its role in MSI by misaligning the senses by simulating conductive AHL using earplugs. First, I will determine the impact of AHL on MSI during spatial localization. Further, I will test where in the brain multisensory recalibration occurs, and whether it can restore MSI. The proposed research connects, for the first time, the mechanisms of recalibration and MSI in the context of sensory impairments, which have only been studied independently before. The results will provide important insights into MSI and will be used to design rehabilitation interventions for a growing population of (both younger and older) people with hearing loss.

Details

Project number

451-17-014

Main applicant

Dr. N. van der Stoep

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Departement Psychologie

Team members

Dr. N. van der Stoep

Duration

01/09/2017 to 01/09/2021