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Multisensory Enhancement of Odor Object Processing in Primary Olfactory Cortex

: Porada, D.K.; Regenbogen, C.; Seubert, J.; Freiherr, J.; Lundström, J.N.


Neuroscience 418 (2019), S.254-265
ISSN: 0306-4522
Fraunhofer IVV ()

Identification of an object based on its odor alone is inherently difficult, but becomes easier when other senses provide supporting cues. This suggests that crossmodal sensory input facilitates neural processing of olfactory object information; however, direct evidence is still lacking. Here, we tested the effect of multisensory stimulation on information processing in the human posterior piriform cortex (PPC), a region linked to olfactory object encoding. Participants were exposed to familiar objects in the form of uni-, bi-, and trimodal combinations of odors, videos, and sounds. We hypothesized that the PPC would respond to non-olfactory object information, and that activity would increase linearly with the number of senses providing relevant object information. As predicted, visual object information activated the PPC and activity increased linearly with the number of relevant sensory channels. The crossmodal response pattern thus indicates that the PPC does not exclusively respond to olfactory information, but also to crossmodal object information important for olfactory processing. The continuous activity increase suggests that the PPC further acts as a multisensory binding site where pertinent input from multiple senses results in an increased neural response to the odor object. This potentially represents a neural mechanism for the well-known behavioral improvement present in odor object recognition during concurrent crossmodal sensory stimulation.