Exploring the time window for causal inference and the multisensory integration of actions and their visual effects.

Research paper by Nienke B NB Debats, Herbert H Heuer

Indexed on: 25 Sep '20Published on: 25 Sep '20Published in: Royal Society open science


Successful computer use requires the operator to link the movement of the cursor to that of his or her hand. Previous studies suggest that the brain establishes this perceptual link through multisensory integration, whereby the causality evidence that drives the integration is provided by the correlated hand and cursor movement trajectories. Here, we explored the temporal window during which this causality evidence is effective. We used a basic cursor-control task, in which participants performed out-and-back reaching movements with their hand on a digitizer tablet. A corresponding cursor movement could be shown on a monitor, yet slightly rotated by an angle that varied from trial to trial. Upon completion of the backward movement, participants judged the endpoint of the outward hand or cursor movement. The mutually biased judgements that typically result reflect the integration of the proprioceptive information on hand endpoint with the visual information on cursor endpoint. We here manipulated the time period during which the cursor was visible, thereby selectively providing causality evidence either before or after sensory information regarding the to-be-judged movement endpoint was available. Specifically, the cursor was visible either during the outward or backward hand movement (conditions and , respectively). Our data revealed reduced integration in the condition compared with the condition , suggesting that causality evidence available before the to-be-judged movement endpoint is more powerful than later evidence in determining how strongly the brain integrates the endpoint information. This finding further suggests that sensory integration is not delayed until a judgement is requested. © 2020 The Authors.