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Auditory and visual sensory loss has repeatedly been shown to alter abilities in remaining sensory modalities. It is, however, unclear whether sensory loss also impacts multisensory integration; an ability that is fundamental for the perception of the world around us. We determined effects of olfactory sensory deprivation on multisensory perception by assessing temporal as well as semantic aspects of audio-visual integration in 37 individuals with anosmia (complete olfactory sensory loss) and 37 healthy, matched controls. Participants performed a simultaneity judgement task to determine the temporal binding window, and a multisensory object identification task with individually degraded, dynamic visual, auditory, and audio-visual stimuli. Individuals with anosmia demonstrated an increased ability to detect multisensory temporal asynchronies, represented by a narrowing of the audio-visual temporal binding window. Furthermore, individuals with congenital, but not acquired, anosmia demonstrated indications of greater benefits from bimodal, as compared to unimodal, stimulus presentation when faced with degraded, semantic information. This suggests that the absence of the olfactory sense alters multisensory integration of remaining senses by sharpening the perception of cross-modal temporal violations, independent of sensory loss etiology. In addition, congenital sensory loss may further lead to increased gain from multisensory, compared to unisensory, information. Taken together, multisensory compensatory mechanisms at different levels of perceptual complexity are present in individuals with anosmia.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior
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