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Visual-somatosensory integration in aging: Does stimulus location really matter?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2014

The Department of Neurology, Division of Cognitive & Motor Aging, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
The Department of Neurology, Division of Cognitive & Motor Aging, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
The Department of Neurology, Division of Cognitive & Motor Aging, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York


Individuals are constantly bombarded by sensory stimuli across multiple modalities that must be integrated efficiently. Multisensory integration (MSI) is said to be governed by stimulus properties including space, time, and magnitude. While there is a paucity of research detailing MSI in aging, we have demonstrated that older adults reveal the greatest reaction time (RT) benefit when presented with simultaneous visual-somatosensory (VS) stimuli. To our knowledge, the differential RT benefit of visual and somatosensory stimuli presented within and across spatial hemifields has not been investigated in aging. Eighteen older adults (Mean = 74 years; 11 female), who were determined to be non-demented and without medical or psychiatric conditions that may affect their performance, participated in this study. Participants received eight randomly presented stimulus conditions (four unisensory and four multisensory) and were instructed to make speeded foot-pedal responses as soon as they detected any stimulation, regardless of stimulus type and location of unisensory inputs. Results from a linear mixed effect model, adjusted for speed of processing and other covariates, revealed that RTs to all multisensory pairings were significantly faster than those elicited to averaged constituent unisensory conditions (p < 0.01). Similarly, race model violation did not differ based on unisensory spatial location (p = 0.41). In summary, older adults demonstrate significant VS multisensory RT effects to stimuli both within and across spatial hemifields.

Research Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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