Everyday experience affords us many opportunities to learn about objects through multiple senses using physical interaction. Previous work has shown that active motor learning of unisensory items enhances memory and leads to the involvement of motor systems during subsequent perception. However, the impact of active motor learning on subsequent perception and recognition of associations among multiple senses has not been investigated. Twenty participants were included in an fMRI study that explored the impact of active motor learning on subsequent processing of unisensory and multisensory stimuli. Participants were exposed to visuo-motor associations between novel objects and novel sounds either through self-generated actions on the objects or by observing an experimenter produce the actions. Immediately after exposure, accuracy, RT, and BOLD fMRI measures were collected with unisensory and multisensory stimuli in associative perception and recognition tasks. Response times during audiovisual associative and unisensory recognition were enhanced by active learning, as was accuracy during audiovisual associative recognition. The difference in motor cortex activation between old and new associations was greater for the active than the passive group. Furthermore, functional connectivity between visual and motor cortices was stronger after active learning than passive learning. Active learning also led to greater activation of the fusiform gyrus during subsequent unisensory visual perception. Finally, brain regions implicated in audiovisual integration (e.g., STS) showed greater multisensory gain after active learning than after passive learning. Overall, the results show that active motor learning modulates the processing of multisensory associations.

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