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J Vis. 2010 Sep 22;10(11):14. doi: 10.1167/10.11.14.

Humans do not have direct access to retinal flow during walking.

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Multisensory Perception and Action Group, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany.


Perceived visual speed has been reported to be reduced during walking. This reduction has been attributed to a partial subtraction of walking speed from visual speed (F. H. Durgin & K. Gigone, 2007; F. H. Durgin, K. Gigone, & R. Scott, 2005). We tested whether observers still have access to the retinal flow before subtraction takes place. Observers performed a 2IFC visual speed discrimination task while walking on a treadmill. In one condition, walking speed was identical in the two intervals, while in a second condition walking speed differed between intervals. If observers have access to the retinal flow before subtraction, any changes in walking speed across intervals should not affect their ability to discriminate retinal flow speed. Contrary to this "direct access hypothesis," we found that observers were worse at discrimination when walking speed differed between intervals. The results therefore suggest that observers do not have access to retinal flow before subtraction. We also found that the amount of subtraction depended on the visual speed presented, suggesting that the interaction between the processing of visual input and of self-motion is more complex than previously proposed.

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