Seeing Is Believing: Neural Representations of Visual Stimuli in Human Auditory Cortex Correlate with Illusory Auditory Perceptions

Elliot Smith, Scott Duede, Sara Hanrahan, Tyler Davis, Paul House, Bradley Greger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In interpersonal communication, the listener can often see as well as hear the speaker. Visual stimuli can subtly change a listener's auditory perception, as in the McGurk illusion, in which perception of a phoneme's auditory identity is changed by a concurrent video of a mouth articulating a different phoneme. Studies have yet to link visual influences on the neural representation of language with subjective language perception. Here we show that vision influences the electrophysiological representation of phonemes in human auditory cortex prior to the presentation of the auditory stimulus. We used the McGurk effect to dissociate the subjective perception of phonemes from the auditory stimuli. With this paradigm we demonstrate that neural representations in auditory cortex are more closely correlated with the visual stimuli of mouth articulation, which drive the illusory subjective auditory perception, than the actual auditory stimuli. Additionally, information about visual and auditory stimuli transfer in the caudal-rostral direction along the superior temporal gyrus during phoneme perception as would be expected of visual information flowing from the occipital cortex into the ventral auditory processing stream. These results show that visual stimuli influence the neural representation in auditory cortex early in sensory processing and may override the subjective auditory perceptions normally generated by auditory stimuli. These findings depict a marked influence of vision on the neural processing of audition in tertiary auditory cortex and suggest a mechanistic underpinning for the McGurk effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere73148
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 4 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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