The Beauchamp Lab studies the neural mechanisms for visual perception and multisensory integration in human subjects. Many complex tasks require us to integrate information from multiple modalities. For instance, when trying to understanding spoken language, we make use of both the auditory information in the heard speech and the visual information from the facial movements of the speaker. This multisensory integration is especially important under conditions in which one modality is degraded, such as a loud room. Understanding the neural mechanisms for multisensory integration under these conditions may help us treat patients with sensory deficits, such as the decreased visual and auditory sensitivity common in aging. To understand the neural basis of multisensory integration, the primary method used is blood-oxygen level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (BOLD fMRI). fMRI experiments are conducted using the research-dedicated 3 tesla scanner in the UT MRI Center adjacent to the lab. Because of the limited temporal and spatial resolution of fMRI, we often combine it with other methods. It is particularly useful to combine fMRI with electrical or magnetic stimulation of the brain to determine if a region of activity observed in fMRI is truly important for the cognitive operation of interest. Electrical recording from patients implanted with electrodes for the treatment of medically intractable epilepsy is also an important tool, because it allows direct recording of the activity of small populations of neurons, as opposed to the indirect nature of the BOLD signal. Anatomically, the primary focus of the lab is on the superior temporal sulcus, a brain area critical for multisensory integration and visual perception of complex movements.
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy University of Texas Medical School at Houston 6431 Fannin Street, Suite G.550G Houston, Texas 77030