Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The multisensory attentional consequences of tool use : a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

By Nicholas P. Holmes, Charles Spence, Peter C. Hansen, Clare E. Mackay and Gemma Calvert


Background: Tool use in humans requires that multisensory information is integrated across different locations, from objects\ud seen to be distant from the hand, but felt indirectly at the hand via the tool. We tested the hypothesis that using a simple tool\ud to perceive vibrotactile stimuli results in the enhanced processing of visual stimuli presented at the distal, functional part of the\ud tool. Such a finding would be consistent with a shift of spatial attention to the location where the tool is used.\ud Methodology/Principal Findings: We tested this hypothesis by scanning healthy human participants’ brains using\ud functional magnetic resonance imaging, while they used a simple tool to discriminate between target vibrations,\ud accompanied by congruent or incongruent visual distractors, on the same or opposite side to the tool. The attentional\ud hypothesis was supported: BOLD response in occipital cortex, particularly in the right hemisphere lingual gyrus, varied\ud significantly as a function of tool position, increasing contralaterally, and decreasing ipsilaterally to the tool. Furthermore,\ud these modulations occurred despite the fact that participants were repeatedly instructed to ignore the visual stimuli, to\ud respond only to the vibrotactile stimuli, and to maintain visual fixation centrally. In addition, the magnitude of multisensory\ud (visual-vibrotactile) interactions in participants’ behavioural responses significantly predicted the BOLD response in occipital\ud cortical areas that were also modulated as a function of both visual stimulus position and tool position.\ud Conclusions/Significance: These results show that using a simple tool to locate and to perceive vibrotactile stimuli is\ud accompanied by a shift of spatial attention to the location where the functional part of the tool is used, resulting in\ud enhanced processing of visual stimuli at that location, and decreased processing at other locations. This was most clearly\ud observed in the right hemisphere lingual gyrus. Such modulations of visual processing may reflect the functional\ud importance of visuospatial information during human tool use

Topics: BF, QP
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. Holmes HG (1911–1912) Sensory disturbances from cerebral lesions. doi
  2. (2004). The neural bases of complex tool use in humans. doi
  3. (2007). La `davas E
  4. La `davas E (2005) Shaping multisensory action-space with tools: Evidence from patients with cross-modal extinction. doi
  5. (2000). L a `davas E
  6. (2004). Extending or projecting peripersonal space with tools? Multisensory interactions highlight only the distal and proximal ends of tools. doi
  7. (2007). Tool use changes multisensory interactions in seconds: Evidence from the crossmodal congruency task. doi
  8. (2007). Tool-use: Capturing multisensory spatial attention or extending multisensory peripersonal space? doi
  9. (2004). Iriki A doi
  10. (2002). Tool-use changes multimodal spatial interactions between vision and touch in normal humans. doi
  11. (2004). Visuomotor cuing through tool use in unilateral visual neglect.
  12. (2001). Reaching with a tool extends visual-tactile interactions into far space: Evidence from cross-modal extinction. doi
  13. (2000). When far becomes near: Remapping of space by tool use. doi
  14. (2006). On the nature of near space: Effects of tool use and the transition to far space. doi
  15. (2001). Sensation at the tips of invisible tools.
  16. (2004). Multisensory contributions to the 3-D representation of visuotactile peripersonal space in humans: Evidence from the crossmodal congruency task. doi
  17. (2008). Multisensory interactions. doi
  18. (2006). Multisensory interactions follow the hands across the midline: Evidence from a non-spatial visual-tactile congruency task. Brain Res 1077: 108–115. Spatial Attention and Tool Use PLoS doi
  19. (2005). Attentional load and sensory competition in human vision: Modulation of fMRI responses by load at fixation during task-irrelevant stimulation in the peripheral visual field. doi
  20. (1990). Attentional modulation of neural processing of shape, color, and velocity in humans. doi
  21. (1998). Retinotopy and color sensitivity in human visual cortical area V8. doi
  22. (1998). The retinotopy of visual spatial attention. doi
  23. (1997). Attention to one or two features in left or right visual field: A positron emission tomography study.
  24. (2005). Statistical criteria in fMRI studies of multisensory integration. doi
  25. (1999). Involvement of striate and extrastriate visual cortical areas in spatial attention.
  26. (2005). The sensorimotor transformation of cross-modal spatial information in the anterior intraparietal sulcus as revealed by functional MRI. doi
  27. (2005). Multisensory stimulation with or without saccades: fMRI evidence for crossmodal effects on sensory-specific cortices that reflect multisensory location-congruence rather than task-relevance. doi
  28. (2005). A new SPM toolbox for combining probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps and functional imaging data. doi
  29. (2003). Multimodal spatial representations engaged in human parietal cortex during both saccadic and manual spatial orienting. doi
  30. (2000). Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging of crossmodal binding in the human heteromodal cortex. doi
  31. (1999). The representation of illusory and real contours in human cortical visual areas revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging.
  32. (2006). Cognition and medial frontal cortex in health and disease. doi
  33. (2004). Action sets and decisions in the medial frontal cortex. doi
  34. (2000). Selective spatial attention in vision and touch: unimodal and multimodal mechanisms revealed by PET. doi
  35. (2002). Supramodal effects of covert spatial orienting triggered by visual or tactile events. doi
  36. (2003). Preparatory states in crossmodal spatial attention: Spatial specificity and possible control mechanisms.
  37. (2006). Parietal cortex mediates voluntary control of spatial and nonspatial auditory attention. doi
  38. (2002). Haptic study of three-dimensional objects activates extrastriate visual areas. doi
  39. (2005). Functional imaging of human crossmodal identification and object recognition. doi
  40. (2000). A comparison of frontoparietal fMRI activation during anti-saccades and antipointing.
  41. (2006). Role for human posterior parietal cortex in visual processing of aversive objects in peripersonal space. doi
  42. (2007). Is that near my hand? Multisensory representation of peripersonal space in human intraparietal sulcus. doi
  43. (1980). Animal tool behavior: The use and manufacture of tools by primates.
  44. (2006). Beyond the body schema: Visual, prosthetic, and technological contributions to bodily perception and awareness.
  45. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. doi
  46. (2008). Revisiting the definition of tool use. doi
  47. (2004). Parametric reverse correlation reveals spatial linearity of retinotopic human V1 BOLD response. doi
  48. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh Inventory. doi
  49. (1999). Detection of vibration transmitted through an object grasped in the hand.
  50. (2001). The roles and functions of cutaneous mechanoreceptors. doi
  51. (2002). Improved optimization for the robust and accurate linear registration and motion correction of brain images. doi
  52. (2002). Fast robust automated brain extraction. doi
  53. (2001). Temporal autocorrelation in univariate linear modeling of fMRI data. doi
  54. (2001). A global optimisation method for robust affine registration of brain images. doi
  55. (2003). General multilevel linear modeling for group analysis in FMRI. doi
  56. (2004). Multilevel linear modelling for FMRI group analysis using Bayesian inference. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.