Joram van Driel, Tomas Knapen, Daniel M van Es, Michael X Cohen
NeuroImage (2014). 101 : 404-415
In a continuously changing environment, time is a key property that tells us whether information from the different senses belongs together. Yet, little is known about how the brain integrates temporal information across sensory modalities. Using high-density EEG combined with a novel psychometric timing task in which human subjects evaluated durations of audiovisual stimuli, we show that the strength of alpha-band (8-12Hz) phase synchrony between localizer-defined auditory and visual regions depended on cross-modal attention: during encoding of a constant 500ms standard interval, audiovisual alpha synchrony decreased when subjects attended audition while ignoring vision, compared to when they attended both modalities. In addition, alpha connectivity during a variable target interval predicted the degree to which auditory stimulus duration biased time estimation while attending vision. This cross-modal interference effect was estimated using a hierarchical Bayesian model of a psychometric function that also provided an estimate of each individual’s tendency to exhibit attention lapses. This lapse rate, in turn, was predicted by single-trial estimates of the stability of interregional alpha synchrony: when attending to both modalities, trials with greater stability in patterns of connectivity were characterized by reduced contamination by lapses. Together, these results provide new insights into a functional role of the coupling of alpha phase dynamics between sensory cortices in integrating cross-modal information over time.