Role of Sensory Experience in the Development of Multisensory Processes

An ongoing project in our laboratory is to better elucidate the role that sensory experience plays in shaping the development of multisensory processes.

Previous work in our laboratory has established that multisensory circuits in both cortical and subcortical brain regions are strikingly immature in early postnatal life, and develop their normal integrative capabilities only after an extensive period of postnatal maturation. Such a timeline suggested that multisensory development may be critically dependent upon the experiences gathered during this critical period of life. To test this hypothesis, ongoing experiments are examining the impact of altered sensory experiences on the development of normal multisensory circuits.

We have established that visual experience during early postnatal life is a necessary prerequisite for the development of normal multisensory processes in the superior colliculus. We are currently in the process of determining whether a similar dependency is seen in multisensory cortex. In addition, we are also conducting experiments to examine what aspects of early multisensory experiences (e.g., the spatial relationship of the two stimuli, their temporal relationship, etc.) are most important for the development of normal multisensory integration.