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Curr Biol. 2010 Apr 27;20(8):757-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.059. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

A Bayesian model of perceived head-centered velocity during smooth pursuit eye movement.

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School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK.


During smooth pursuit eye movement, observers often misperceive velocity. Pursued stimuli appear slower (Aubert-Fleishl phenomenon [1, 2]), stationary objects appear to move (Filehne illusion [3]), the perceived direction of moving objects is distorted (trajectory misperception [4]), and self-motion veers away from its true path (e.g., the slalom illusion [5]). Each illusion demonstrates that eye speed is underestimated with respect to image speed, a finding that has been taken as evidence of early sensory signals that differ in accuracy [4, 6-11]. Here we present an alternative Bayesian account, based on the idea that perceptual estimates are increasingly influenced by prior expectations as signals become more uncertain [12-15]. We show that the speeds of pursued stimuli are more difficult to discriminate than fixated stimuli. Observers are therefore less certain about motion signals encoding the speed of pursued stimuli, a finding we use to quantify the Aubert-Fleischl phenomenon based on the assumption that the prior for motion is centered on zero [16-20]. In doing so, we reveal an important property currently overlooked by Bayesian models of motion perception. Two Bayes estimates are needed at a relatively early stage in processing, one for pursued targets and one for image motion.

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