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Vision Res. 2001;41(25-26):3229-42.

The subjective vertical and the sense of self orientation during active body tilt.

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231 Department of Medical Physics and Biophysics, University of Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Previous testing of the ability to set a luminous line to the direction of gravity in passively-tilted subjects, in darkness, has revealed a remarkable pattern of systematic errors at tilts beyond 60 degrees, as if body tilt is undercompensated or underestimated (Aubert or A-effect). We investigated whether these consistent deviations from orientation constancy can be avoided during active body tilt, where more potential cues about body tilt (e.g. proprioception and efference copy) are available. The effects of active body tilt on the subjective vertical and on the perception of self tilt were studied in six subjects. After adopting a laterally-tilted posture, while standing in a dark room, they indicated the subjective vertical by adjusting a visual line and gave their verbal estimate of head orientation, expressed on a clock scale. Head roll tilts covered the range from -150 degrees to +150 degrees. The subjective vertical results showed no sign of improvement. Actively-tilted subjects still exhibited the same pattern of systematic errors that characterised their performance during passive tilt. Random errors in this task showed a steep monotonic increase with tilt angle, as in earlier passive tilt experiments. By contrast, verbal head-tilt estimates in the active experiments showed a clear improvement and were now almost devoid of systematic errors, but the noise level remained high. Various models are discussed in an attempt to clarify how these task-related differences and the selective improvement of the self-tilt estimates in the active experiments may have come about.

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