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J Vis. 2011 Apr 8;11(4). pii: 5. doi: 10.1167/11.4.5.

The weight of time: gravitational force enhances discrimination of visual motion duration.

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Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy.


In contrast with the anisotropies in spatial and motion vision, anisotropies in the perception of motion duration have not been investigated to our knowledge. Here, we addressed this issue by asking observers to judge the duration of motion of a target accelerating over a fixed length path in one of different directions. Observers watched either a pictorial or a quasi-blank scene, while being upright or tilted by 45° relative to the monitor and Earth's gravity. Finally, observers were upright and we tilted the scene by 45°. We found systematic anisotropies in the precision of the responses, the performance being better for downward motion than for upward motion relative to the scene both when the observer and the scene were upright and when either the observer or the scene were tilted by 45°, although tilting decreased the size of the effect. We argue that implicit knowledge about gravity force is incorporated in the neural mechanisms computing elapsed time. Furthermore, the results suggest that the effects of a virtual gravity can be represented with respect to a vertical direction concordant with the visual scene orientation and discordant with the direction of Earth's gravity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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