Why does food lose its taste when your nose is stuffed up? Why are we better in hearing speech when we see a speaker’s lip movements? These are questions of interest in the emerging field of multisensory integration (MI). Although the scientific study of MI on the behavioral level has existed since psychology became an experimental discipline, little is known about the precise mechanisms underlying MI in the human brain. The application of advanced methods of cognitive neuroscience now allow us to uncover the finer details of how sensory inputs are merged to become coherent multisensory percepts. This is of utmost importance in improving our understanding and treatment of conditions in which multisensory integration is impaired, such as schizophrenia.
The main objective of the proposed research program is to examine neural and neurochemical markers of MI and to test a new hypothesis that considers dynamic interplay of synchronized neural populations as a key to multisensory processes. The studies within this program include healthy subjects and patients with schizophrenia, as a prototype of a mental disorder with deficits in MI. Multisensory processes will be examined in a series of experiments requiring various modes of cognitive processes. Reaching beyond the state-of-the-art, this comprises a combination of human EEG data as a macroscopic measure of cortical processing; source modeling of synchronized EEG activity; and neurochemical markers (magnetic resonance spectroscopy of resting neurotransmitter concentrations in selected brain areas). This research program will potentially lead to a major breakthrough in our understanding of MI and will open new horizons in the generation of ideas, approaches, and theories regarding multisensory processes in the human brain.
Fields of science
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