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Barry E. Stein

Barry E. Stein is Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. His previous books on this topic include The Merging of the Senses (MIT Press, 1993) and The Handbook of Multisensory Processes (MIT Press, 2004).

Titles by This Author

Bringing together neural, perceptual, and behavioral studies, The Merging of the Senses provides the first detailed review of how the brain assembles information from different sensory systems in order to produce a coherent view of the external world. Stein and Meredith marshall evidence from a broad array of species to show that interactions among senses are the most ancient scheme of sensory organization, an integrative system reflecting a general plan that supersedes structure and species. Most importantly, they explore what is known about the neural processes by which interactions among the senses take place at the level of the single cell.

The authors draw on their own experiments to illustrate how sensory inputs converge (from visual, auditory, and somatosensory modalities, for instance) on individual neurons in different areas of the brain, how these neurons integrate their inputs, the principles by which this integration occurs, and what this may mean for perception and behavior. Neurons in the superior colliculus and cortex are emphasized as models of multiple sensory integrators.

Barry E. Stein is Professor of Physiology and M. Alex Meredith is Associate Professor of Anatomy, both at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Titles by This Editor

Edited by Barry E. Stein

Scientists' attempts to understand the physiology underlying our apprehension of the physical world was long dominated by a focus on the individual senses. The 1980s saw the beginning of systematic efforts to examine interactions among different sensory modalities at the level of the single neuron. And by the end of the 1990s, a recognizable and multidisciplinary field of "multisensory processes" had emerged. More recently, studies involving both human and nonhuman subjects have focused on relationships among multisensory neuronal ensembles and their behavioral, perceptual, and cognitive correlates. The New Handbook of Multisensory Processing synthesizes the central themes in this rapidly developing area, reports on current findings, and offers a blueprint for future research. The contributions, all of them written for this volume by leading experts, reflect the evolution and current state of the field.

This handbook does more than simply review the field. Each of the volume's eleven sections broadly surveys a major topic, and each begins with a substantive and thought-provoking commentary by the section editor that identifies the major issues being explored, describes their treatment in the chapters that follow, and sets these findings within the context of the existing body of knowledge. Together, the commentaries and chapters provide an invaluable guide to areas of general agreement, unresolved issues, and topics that remain to be explored in this fast-moving field.

This landmark reference work brings together for the first time in one volume the most recent research from different areas of the emerging field of multisensory integration. After many years of using a modality-specific "sense-by-sense" approach, researchers across different disciplines in neuroscience and psychology now recognize that perception is fundamentally a multisensory experience. To understand how the brain synthesizes information from the different senses, we must study not only how information from each sensory modality is decoded but also how this information interacts with the sensory processing taking place within other sensory channels. The findings cited in The Handbook of Multisensory Processes suggest that there are broad underlying principles that govern this interaction, regardless of the specific senses involved.

The book is organized thematically into eight sections; each of the 55 chapters presents a state-of-the-art review of its topic by leading researchers in the field. The key themes addressed include multisensory contributions to perception in humans; whether the sensory integration involved in speech perception is fundamentally different from other kinds of multisensory integration; multisensory processing in the midbrain and cortex in model species, including rat, cat, and monkey; behavioral consequences of multisensory integration; modern neuroimaging techniques, including EEG, PET, and fMRI, now being used to reveal the many sites of multisensory processing in the brain; multisensory processes that require postnatal sensory experience to emerge, with examples from multiple species; brain specialization and possible equivalence of brain regions; and clinical studies of such breakdowns of normal sensory integration as brain damage and synesthesia.