Multisensory Cue Combination After Sensory Loss: Audio-Visual Localization in Patients With Progressive Retinal Disease

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Abstract

Human adults can combine perceptual estimates from different senses to minimize uncertainty, by taking a reliability-weighted average (the maximum likelihood estimate, MLE). Although research has shown that healthy human adults reweight estimates as their reliability changes from one trial to the next, less is known about how humans adapt to gradual long-term changes in sensory reliability. This study assessed whether individuals diagnosed with progressive visual deterioration, due to retinal disease, combined auditory and visual cues to location according to optimal (MLE) predictions. Twelve patients with central visual loss, 10 patients with peripheral visual loss, and 12 normally sighted adults were asked to localize visual and/or auditory targets in central (1°–18°) and peripheral (36°–53°) locations. Normally sighted adults and patients with peripheral visual loss showed multisensory uncertainty reduction and cue weighting in line with MLE predictions. In contrast, patients with central visual loss did not weight estimates appropriately in either the center or the periphery, and failed to meet MLE predictions in the periphery. Our results show that one visual loss patient group succeeded at optimal cue combination, whereas the other patient group (patients with central vision loss) did not. We propose that sensory remapping due to changes in fixation behavior may contribute to apparent failures in the latter group.

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