Ghana's Leading SciComm Platform

The Role of Long-Term Physical Activity on Multisensory Integration

Multisensory Integration in Ageing

Ageing gracefully is a goal many of us aspire to achieve. While it’s true that the passage of time brings about changes in our bodies and minds, emerging research highlights the profound impact of physical activity on older adults. Researchers at Trinity College, Dublin studied the relationship between long-term physical activity and multisensory integration. They uncovered how an active lifestyle can positively influence the way our brains process information from various senses.

The Intriguing Sound-Induced Flash Illusion (SIFI)

The way we perceive the world depends on our ability to seamlessly integrate information from different senses, like vision, hearing, and touch. Multisensory integration is the cognitive process that enables us to form a coherent understanding of our surroundings. However, as we age, our ability to process multisensory information undergoes alterations, leading to variations in how older individuals perceive and react to stimuli.

One phenomenon studied by researchers is the Sound-Induced Flash Illusion (SIFI). This illusion occurs when individuals report seeing two flashes accompanied by two beeps, even when only one flash is presented. The susceptibility to SIFI is linked to the timing of the stimuli, termed Stimulus Onset Asynchrony (SOA). Older adults tend to be more susceptible to this illusion at longer SOAs, suggesting a wider Temporal Binding Window (TBW) for multisensory integration.

Unveiling the Influence of Physical Activity

We’ve long recognized that physical activity contributes to cognitive well-being, prevents cognitive decline, and reduces the risk of age-related conditions like dementia. However, few studies have explored the link between physical activity and multisensory integration in older adults.

This recent research involved 2,974 adults aged 50 and above, aiming to understand how long-term physical activity affects multisensory integration. To measure physical activity patterns over a decade, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was administered every two years. The study employed latent class trajectory modelling to categorize participants based on their physical activity trajectories.

The Eye-Opening Results

The study yielded compelling findings. Participants who consistently maintained a high level of physical activity over the ten-year period exhibited more accurate multisensory integration. This was demonstrated by their reduced susceptibility to the SIFI illusion at longer SOAs. In simple terms, individuals engaged in regular, long-term physical activity had a narrower Temporal Binding Window, which enhanced their capacity to merge auditory and visual stimuli effectively.

Implications for Ageing Gracefully

The implications of this research are substantial. It underscores the vital role of sustained physical activity in preserving the precision of multisensory integration as we age. This enhanced ability to integrate sensory information can lead to improved cognitive function and enhanced mobility, contributing to an overall higher quality of life for older adults.

While these findings are promising, it’s crucial to acknowledge the study’s limitations, including the use of self-reported physical activity data and the employment of a relatively short version of the SIFI task. Nevertheless, this research provides invaluable insights into the profound connection between physical activity and sensory processing in ageing populations.


Maintaining an active lifestyle becomes increasingly important as we age. Regular physical activity not only supports our overall health but also fine-tunes our ability to integrate sensory information, ultimately leading to better cognitive function and balance. So, if you’re searching for a powerful strategy to age gracefully, remember to keep moving and stay active – your brain will undoubtedly thank you for it.

Further Read



Subscribe for Updates

Subscribe for Updates

Leave a Reply