Vestibular inputs are constantly processed and integrated with signals from other sensory modalities, such as vision and touch. The multiply-connected nature of vestibular cortical anatomy led us to investigate whether vestibular signals could participate in a multi-way interaction with visual and somatosensory perception. We used signal detection methods to identify whether vestibular stimulation might interact with both visual and somatosensory events in a detection task. Participants were instructed to detect near-threshold somatosensory stimuli that were delivered to the left index finger in one half of experimental trials. A visual signal occurred close to the finger in half of the trials, independent of somatosensory stimuli. A novel Near infrared caloric vestibular stimulus (NirCVS) was used to artificially activate the vestibular organs. Sham stimulations were used to control for non-specific effects of NirCVS. We found that both visual and vestibular events increased somatosensory sensitivity. Critically, we found no evidence for supra-additive multisensory enhancement when both visual and vestibular signals were administered together: in fact, we found a trend towards sub-additive interaction. The results are compatible with a vestibular role in somatosensory gain regulation.
Ferrè, E. R., Walther, L. E., & Haggard, P. (2015). Multisensory interactions between vestibular, visual and somatosensory signals. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124573