Irrelevant auditory and tactile signals, but not visual signals, interact with the target onset and modulate saccade latencies


  • Vidal Manuel
  • Desantis Andrea
  • Madelain Laurent

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Saccadic eye movements bring events of interest to the center of the retina, enabling detailed visual analysis. This study explored whether irrelevant auditory (experiments A, B & F), visual (C & D) or tactile signals (E & F) delivered around the onset of a visual target modulates saccade latency. Participants were instructed to execute a quick saccade toward a target stepping left or right from a fixation position. We observed an interaction between auditory beeps or tactile vibrations and the oculomotor reaction that included two components: a warning effect resulting in faster saccades when the signal and the target were presented simultaneously; and a modulation effect with shorter-or longer-latencies when auditory and tactile signals were delivered before-or after-the target onset. Combining both modalities only increased the modulation effect to a limited extent, pointing to a saturation of the multisensory interaction with the motor control. Interestingly, irrelevant visual stimuli (black background or isoluminant noise strips in peripheral vision, flashed for 10 ms) increased saccade latency whether they were presented just before or after target onset. The lack of latency reduction with visual signals suggests that the modulation observed in the auditory and tactile experiments was not related to priming effects but rather to low-level audio-and tactile-visual integration. The increase in saccade latency observed with irrelevant visual stimuli is discussed in relation to saccadic inhibition. Our results demonstrate that signals conveying no information regarding where and when a visual target would appear modulate saccadic reactivity, much like in multisensory temporal binding, but only when these signals come from a different modality.

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