Rhythmic modulation of visual perception by continuous rhythmic auditory stimulation

Anna Katharina R. Bauer*, Freek Van Ede, Andrew J. Quinn, Anna C. Nobre1

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


At any given moment our sensory systems receive multiple, often rhythmic, inputs from the environment. Processing of temporally structured events in one sensory modality can guide both behavioral and neural processing of events in other sensory modalities, but whether this occurs remains unclear. Here, we used human electroencephalography (EEG) to test the crossmodal influences of a continuous auditory frequency-modulated (FM) sound on visual perception and visual cortical activity. We report systematic fluctuations in perceptual discrimination of brief visual stimuli in line with the phase of the FM-sound. We further show that this rhythmic modulation in visual perception is related to an accompanying rhythmic modulation of neural activity recorded over visual areas. Importantly, in our task, perceptual and neural visual modulations occurred without any abrupt and salient onsets in the energy of the auditory stimulation and without any rhythmic structure in the visual stimulus. As such, the results provide a critical validation for the existence and functional role of cross-modal entrainment and demonstrates its utility for organizing the perception of multisensory stimulation in the natural environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7065-7075
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) Grant MA 8554/1-1 (to A.-K.R.B.), the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship from the European Commission ACCESS2WM and the ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council MEMTICIPATION Grant 850636 (to F.v.E.), the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award ACN 104571/Z/14/Z and a James S. McDonnell Foundation Understanding Human Cognition Collaborative Award 220020448 (to A.C.N.), and the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Health Biomedical Research Center. The Wellcome Center for Integrative Neuroimaging is supported by core funding from the Wellcome Trust (203139/Z/16/Z). We thank Carsten Matke for helpful discussions and comments. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Bauer et al.


  • Cross-modal influences
  • Eeg
  • Frequency-modulated sounds
  • Multisensory perception
  • Neural entrainment
  • Rhythmic attentional sampling


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