Robert Sekuler and Kristina Visscher of Brandeis University confirm the Newtonian idea that sight and sound are indeed parallel -- at least when it comes to encoding and retrieving short-term memories from the two senses.
"Obviously, sound and light are physically different, processed by different receptors -- eyes and ears -- and furthermore, processed in different neural streams within the brain," explained Sekuler, a neuroscientist at the university's Volen National Center for Complex Systems. "Previous studies that tried to compare auditory and visual memory did little or nothing to put the stimuli that would be remembered on equal footing -- comparing 'apples to apples' between the two senses.
"But in this study we used insights from neuroscience to identify test materials in vision and hearing that the human brain would process and treat in similar ways, and then we used these well-matched stimuli to examine memory for studied lists of either auditory or visual items," said Sekuler.
The research is detailed in the journal PLoS Biology.