Pure tones modulate the representation of orientation and direction in the primary visual cortex

John P. McClure, Pierre Olivier Polack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Multimodal sensory integration facilitates the generation of a unified and coherent perception of the environment. It is now well established that unimodal sensory perceptions, such as vision, are improved in multisensory contexts. Whereas multimodal integration is primarily performed by dedicated multisensory brain regions such as the association cortices or the superior colliculus, recent studies have shown that multisensory interactions also occur in primary sensory cortices. In particular, sounds were shown to modulate the responses of neurons located in layers 2/3 (L2/3) of the mouse primary visual cortex (V1). Yet, the net effect of sound modulation at the V1 population level remained unclear. In the present study, we performed two-photon calcium imaging in awake mice to compare the representation of the orientation and the direction of drifting gratings by V1 L2/3 neurons in unimodal (visual only) or multimodal (audiovisual) conditions. We found that sound modulation depended on the tuning properties (orientation and direction selectivity) and response amplitudes of V1 L2/3 neurons. Sounds potentiated the responses of neurons that were highly tuned to the cue’s orientation and direction but weakly active in the unimodal context, following the principle of inverse effectiveness of multimodal integration. Moreover, sound suppressed the responses of neurons untuned for the orientation and/or the direction of the visual cue. Altogether, sound modulation improved the representation of the orientation and direction of the visual stimulus in V1 L2/3. Namely, visual stimuli presented with auditory stimuli recruited a neuronal population better tuned to the visual stimulus orientation and direction than when presented alone. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The primary visual cortex (V1) receives direct inputs from the primary auditory cortex. Yet, the impact of sounds on visual processing in V1 remains controverted. We show that the modulation by pure tones of V1 visual responses depends on the orientation selectivity, direction selectivity, and response amplitudes of V1 neurons. Hence, audiovisual stimuli recruit a population of V1 neurons better tuned to the orientation and direction of the visual stimulus than unimodal visual stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2202-2214
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


  • Audiovisual
  • Direction selectivity
  • Orientation selectivity
  • Population encoding
  • Primary visual cortex


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