Fusion of visual cues is not mandatory in children

Marko Nardini, Rachael Bedford, Denis Mareschal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (SciVal)


Human adults can go beyond the limits of individual sensory systems' resolutions by integrating multiple estimates (e.g., vision and touch) to reduce uncertainty. Little is known about how this ability develops. Although some multisensory abilities are present from early infancy, it is not until age >= 8 y that children use multiple modalities to reduce sensory uncertainty. Here we show that uncertainty reduction by sensory integration does not emerge until 12 y even within the single modality of vision, in judgments of surface slant based on stereoscopic and texture information. However, adults' integration of sensory information comes at a cost of losing access to the individual estimates that feed into the integrated percept ("sensory fusion"). By contrast, 6-y-olds do not experience fusion, but are able to keep stereo and texture information separate. This ability enables them to outperform adults when discriminating stimuli in which these information sources conflict. Further, unlike adults, 6-y-olds show speed gains consistent with following the fastest-available single cue. Therefore, whereas the mature visual system is optimized for reducing sensory uncertainty, the developing visual system may be optimized for speed and for detecting sensory conflicts. Such conflicts could provide the error signals needed to learn the relationships between sensory information sources and to recalibrate them while the body is growing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17041-17046
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2010


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