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eNeuro. 2017 Jan 25;4(1). pii: ENEURO.0211-16.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0211-16.2016. eCollection 2017 Jan-Feb.

Eye Movements in Darkness Modulate Self-Motion Perception.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen , 6525 HR, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders, Ludwig Maximillians University Hospital of Munich , D-81377 Munich, Germany.


During self-motion, humans typically move the eyes to maintain fixation on the stationary environment around them. These eye movements could in principle be used to estimate self-motion, but their impact on perception is unknown. We had participants judge self-motion during different eye-movement conditions in the absence of full-field optic flow. In a two-alternative forced choice task, participants indicated whether the second of two successive passive lateral whole-body translations was longer or shorter than the first. This task was used in two experiments. In the first (n = 8), eye movements were constrained differently in the two translation intervals by presenting either a world-fixed or body-fixed fixation point or no fixation point at all (allowing free gaze). Results show that perceived translations were shorter with a body-fixed than a world-fixed fixation point. A linear model indicated that eye-movement signals received a weight of ∼25% for the self-motion percept. This model was independently validated in the trials without a fixation point (free gaze). In the second experiment (n = 10), gaze was free during both translation intervals. Results show that the translation with the larger eye-movement excursion was judged more often to be larger than chance, based on an oculomotor choice probability analysis. We conclude that eye-movement signals influence self-motion perception, even in the absence of visual stimulation.


integration; oculomotor; perception; self-motion; vestibular

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