Otolith signals contribute to inter-individual differences in the perception of gravity-centred space

Cian, C., Barraud, P.-A., Paillard, Aurore, Hidot, S., Denise, Pierre and Ventre-Dominey, J. (2014) Otolith signals contribute to inter-individual differences in the perception of gravity-centred space. Experimental Brain Research, 232 (3). pp. 1037-1045. ISSN 0014-4819


the aim of the present study was to investigate (1) the relative contribution of the egocentric reference as well as body orientation perception to visual horizon percept during tilt or during increased gravito-inertial acceleration (Gia, hypergravity environment) conditions and (2) the role of vestibular signals in the inter-individual differences observed in these perceptual modalities. Perceptual estimates analysis showed that backward tilt induced (1) an elevation of the visual horizon, (2) an elevation of the egocentric estimation (visual straight ahead) and (3) an overestimation of body tilt. the increase in the magnitude of Gia induced (1) a lowering of the apparent horizon, (2) a lowering of the straight-ahead and (3) a perception of backwards tilt. Overall, visual horizon percept can be expressed as the combination of body orientation perception and egocentric estimation. When assessing otolith reactivity using off-vertical axis rotation (OVaR), only visual egocentric estimation was significantly correlated with horizontal OVaR performance. On the one hand, we found a correlation between a low modulation amplitude of the otolith responses and straight ahead accuracy when the head axis was tilted relative to gravity. On the other hand, the bias of otolith responses was significantly correlated with straight-ahead accuracy when subjects were submitted to an increase in the Gia. thus, straight-ahead sense would be dependent to some extent to otolith function. these results are discussed in terms of the contribution of otolith inputs in the overall multimodal integration subtending spatial constancy.

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