Event Abstract

When correlation implies causation in multisensory integration

  • 1 Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Tuebingen, Germany
  • 2 Cognitive Neuroscience Department and Cognitive Interaction Technology-Center of Excellence, Bielefeld Universit, Germany
  • 3 University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Inferring which signals have a common underlying cause, and hence should be integrated, represents a primary challenge for a perceptual system dealing with multiple sensory inputs. This challenge is often referred to as the correspondence problem or causal inference. Previous research has demonstrated that spatiotemporal cues, along with prior knowledge, are exploited by the human brain to solve this problem. Here we explore the role of correlation between the fine temporal structure of auditory and visual signals in causal inference. Specifically, we investigated whether correlated signals are inferred to originate from the same distal event and hence are integrated optimally. In a localization task with visual, auditory, and combined audiovisual targets, the improvement in precision for combined relative to unimodal targets was statistically optimal only when audiovisual signals were correlated. This result demonstrates that humans use the similarity in the temporal structure of multisensory signals to solve the correspondence problem, hence inferring causation from correlation.

Keywords: Correspondence problem, multisensory integration, Signal correlation

Conference: Bernstein Conference 2012, Munich, Germany, 12 Sep - 14 Sep, 2012.

Presentation Type: Poster

Topic: Sensory processing and perception

Citation: Parise C, Spence C and Ernst MO (2012). When correlation implies causation in multisensory integration. Front. Comput. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: Bernstein Conference 2012. doi: 10.3389/conf.fncom.2012.55.00063

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Received: 24 May 2012; Published Online: 12 Sep 2012.

* Correspondence: Dr. Cesare Valerio Parise, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany, cesare.parise@tuebingen.mpg.de