Are vertical meridian effects due to audio-visual interface? A new confirmation with deaf subjects

Marta Olivetti Belardinelli, Valerio Santangelo, Fabiano Botta, Stefano Federici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. Specific increases of reaction times (RTs) were found in normal subjects, when endogenous spatial cues and targets were separated by the vertical visual meridian (VM) or by the vertical auditory (AM) meridian, when targets were either visual or auditory. The aim of this study was to assess if this effect could be attributed to longer RTs needed to shift activation between the hemispheres, or rather to different spatial maps underlying visual and auditory attention. Method. We tested the VM effect in deaf subjects. If the shifting of activation from one hemisphere to the other causes the increase in RTs, then no differences between normal and sensory disabled people should take place, as the incoming perceptual information in the residual modality uses the same neural pathways while crossing the vertical meridian. Conversely, if the vertical meridian effects are related to the spatial representation systems underlying endogenous orienting mechanisms, then the lack of the auditory perceptual system in deaf people may have determined different organization processes in the brain circuits, strongly affecting the orienting mechanisms of spatial attention. Results. Compared with a control group of hearing subjects, we found no evidence of the VM effect in deaf subjects. Conclusions. This finding, jointly with those of a previous experiment which showed no AM effect on blind subjects (Olivetti Belardinelli & Santangelo 2005) supports the idea of different spatial maps underlying visual and auditory attention, and suggests that their co-existence may induce interference effects in space processing, giving rise to the anisotropic representation of visual and auditory spaces, observed in normal subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-804
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Deaf subjects
  • Endogenous orienting
  • Separated-but-linked hypothesis
  • Visual and auditory attention
  • Visual meridian effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)


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