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J Neurophysiol. 2016 Sep 1;116(3):1275-85. doi: 10.1152/jn.00322.2016. Epub 2016 Jun 22.

Perception of combined translation and rotation in the horizontal plane in humans.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York; Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York; and Department of Bioengineering, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York


Thresholds and biases of human motion perception were determined for yaw rotation and sway (left-right) and surge (fore-aft) translation, independently and in combination. Stimuli were 1 Hz sinusoid in acceleration with a peak velocity of 14°/s or cm/s. Test stimuli were adjusted based on prior responses, whereas the distracting stimulus was constant. Seventeen human subjects between the ages of 20 and 83 completed the experiments and were divided into 2 groups: younger and older than 50. Both sway and surge translation thresholds significantly increased when combined with yaw rotation. Rotation thresholds were not significantly increased by the presence of translation. The presence of a yaw distractor significantly biased perception of sway translation, such that during 14°/s leftward rotation, the point of subjective equality (PSE) occurred with sway of 3.2 ± 0.7 (mean ± SE) cm/s to the right. Likewise, during 14°/s rightward motion, the PSE was with sway of 2.9 ± 0.7 cm/s to the left. A sway distractor did not bias rotation perception. When subjects were asked to report the direction of translation while varying the axis of yaw rotation, the PSE at which translation was equally likely to be perceived in either direction was 29 ± 11 cm anterior to the midline. These results demonstrated that rotation biased translation perception, such that it is minimized when rotating about an axis anterior to the head. Since the combination of translation and rotation during ambulation is consistent with an axis anterior to the head, this may reflect a mechanism by which movements outside the pattern that occurs during ambulation are perceived.


human; multisensor; otolith; rotation; semicircular canal; translation; vestibular

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