Looming sounds are known to influence visual function in the brain, even as early as the primary visual cortex. However, despite evidence that looming sounds have a larger impact on cortical excitability than stationary sounds, the influence of varying looming strengths on visual ability remains unclear. Here, we aim to understand how these signals influence low-level visual function. Fourteen healthy undergraduate students participated. They were blindfolded and received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the primary visual cortex following auditory stimulation with different strength looming sounds. Participants reported whether they perceived a phosphene, or an illusory visual percept, following TMS stimulation. We hypothesized that rates of phosphene activity would increase with increasing levels of looming strength. A linear mixed-effect model showed that phosphene activity was significantly higher at higher strength of looming (F(1, 69) = 5.33, p = .024) and at higher TMS pulse strength (F(1, 18) = 4.71, p = .043). However, there was also a significant interaction between looming strength and pulse strength (F(1, 69) = 4.33, p = .041). At lower levels of TMS strength, phosphene rate increased with looming strength, while at higher levels of TMS strength the effect was reversed. These results suggest a complex relationship between looming strength and cortical activity, potentially reflecting the mixed contribution of total auditory energy and the rate of changes. This work will enhance our ability to predict audiovisual interactions and may help improve auditory warning systems designed to capture visual attention.

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This post is Copyright: Patrick Seebold,
Yingchen He,
Chang S. Nam | June 4, 2024
Wiley: Journal of Neuropsychology: Table of Contents