Seeing voices: High-density electrical mapping and source-analysis of the multisensory mismatch negativity evoked during the McGurk illusion

Dave Saint-Amour, Pierfilippo De Sanctis, Sophie Molholm, Walter Ritter, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Seeing a speaker's facial articulatory gestures powerfully affects speech perception, helping us overcome noisy acoustical environments. One particularly dramatic illustration of visual influences on speech perception is the "McGurk illusion", where dubbing an auditory phoneme onto video of an incongruent articulatory movement can often lead to illusory auditory percepts. This illusion is so strong that even in the absence of any real change in auditory stimulation, it activates the automatic auditory change-detection system, as indexed by the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the auditory event-related potential (ERP). We investigated the putative left hemispheric dominance of McGurk-MMN using high-density ERPs in an oddball paradigm. Topographic mapping of the initial McGurk-MMN response showed a highly lateralized left hemisphere distribution, beginning at 175 ms. Subsequently, scalp activity was also observed over bilateral fronto-central scalp with a maximal amplitude at ∼290 ms, suggesting later recruitment of right temporal cortices. Strong left hemisphere dominance was again observed during the last phase of the McGurk-MMN waveform (350-400 ms). Source analysis indicated bilateral sources in the temporal lobe just posterior to primary auditory cortex. While a single source in the right superior temporal gyrus (STG) accounted for the right hemisphere activity, two separate sources were required, one in the left transverse gyrus and the other in STG, to account for left hemisphere activity. These findings support the notion that visually driven multisensory illusory phonetic percepts produce an auditory-MMN cortical response and that left hemisphere temporal cortex plays a crucial role in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Audio-visual speech
  • McGurk illusion
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Multisensory integration
  • Preattentive
  • Topography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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