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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Apr 16;99(8):5661-3.

Perception of biological motion without local image motion.

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Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of General Zoology and Neurobiology, Ruhr University Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany.


A vivid perception of the moving form of a human figure can be obtained from a few moving light points on the joints of the body. This is known as biological motion perception. It is commonly believed that the perception of biological motion rests on image motion signals. Curiously, however, some patients with lesions to motion processing areas of the dorsal stream are severely impaired in image motion perception but can easily perceive biological motion. Here we describe a biological motion stimulus based on a limited lifetime technique that tests the perception of a moving human figure in the absence of local image motion. We find that subjects can spontaneously recognize a moving human figure in displays without local image motion. Their performance is very similar to that for classic point-light displays. We also find that tasks involving the discrimination of walking direction or the coherence of a walking figure can be performed in the absence of image motion. Thus, although image motion may generally aid processes such as segmenting figure from background, we propose that it is not the basis for the precept of biological motion. Rather, we suggest biological motion is derived from dynamic form information on body posture evolving over time.

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