Early experience determines how the senses will interact.
Multisensory integration refers to the process by which the brain synthesizes information from different senses to enhance sensitivity to external events. In the present experiments, animals were reared in an altered sensory environment in which visual and auditory stimuli were temporally coupled but originated from different locations. Neurons in the superior colliculus developed a seemingly anomalous form of multisensory integration in which spatially disparate visual-auditory stimuli were integrated in the same way that neurons in normally reared animals integrated visual-auditory stimuli from the same location. The data suggest that the principles governing multisensory integration are highly plastic and that there is no a priori spatial relationship between stimuli from different senses that is required for their integration. Rather, these principles appear to be established early in life based on the specific features of an animal's environment to best adapt it to deal with that environment later in life.