Multimodality of Neurons
There are two kinds of neurons identified in the neurobiological literature relative to modal attributes: uni-modal and multi-modal. Uni-modal neurons carry information relative to a single modality. For example, a uni-modal auditory neuron can process only auditory information. Multimodal neurons are neurons that can carry information relative to more than one mode. A multimodal neuron may be able to process information from both visual and auditory senses (multimodal). A neuron that can carry information relative to three different modes is particularly labeled as tri-modal; however, it can be discussed within the multimodal neuron category.
Again, older technologies tended to focus on uni-modal neuron activity because of their limited capacity; but more recent technology is able to show multi-modality of neurons. There is no debate about the existence of these modal characteristics; however, there is some debate regarding whether particular sets of neurons act independently of one another and can manage facilitating individual sensory information and then bring it together computationally, or if they can facilitate multiple sensory information (Allman, Keniston, and Meredith, 2009; Allman and Meredith, 2007; and Bernstein, Auer, and Moore, 2004).
Studies related to multimodal neurons also suggest that certain kinds of information can be processed at different rates by such neurons, suggesting an optimal modal composition of a given message to facilitate faster processing (Bethge, Rotermund, and Pawelzik, 2003; and Bremner and Spence, 2008). Numerous studies in multimodal rhetoric examine combinations that have the best effect on an audience (Kress, 2011; and Moreno and Mayer, 2000). Studies in assessment of multimodal products contribute to this analysis as well (Ball, 2003; Katz and Odell, 2012; Neal, 2011; and Remley, 2012). As such, multimodal rhetoric scholars can contribute to studies related to ascertaining optimal combinations by developing potential multimodal products that can be used in empirical electrophysiological or fMRI studies.