The Role of the Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus in Audiovisual Processing
from Cerebral Cortex
In this study we investigate previous claims that a region in the left posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) is more activated by audiovisual than unimodal processing. First, we compare audiovisual to visual–visual and auditory–auditory conceptual matching using auditory or visual object names that are paired with pictures of objects or their environmental sounds. Second, we compare congruent and incongruent audiovisual trials when presentation is simultaneous or sequential. Third, we compare audiovisual stimuli that are either verbal (auditory and visual words) or nonverbal (pictures of objects and their associated sounds). The results demonstrate that, when task, attention, and stimuli are controlled, pSTS activation for audiovisual conceptual matching is 1) identical to that observed for intramodal conceptual matching, 2) greater for incongruent than congruent trials when auditory and visual stimuli are simultaneously presented, and 3) identical for verbal and nonverbal stimuli. These results are not consistent with previous claims that pSTS activation reflects the active formation of an integrated audiovisual representation. After a discussion of the stimulus and task factors that modulate activation, we conclude that, when stimulus input, task, and attention are controlled, pSTS is part of a distributed set of regions involved in conceptual matching, irrespective of whether the stimuli are audiovisual, auditory–auditory or visual–visual.