Perceptual direction detection thresholds for yaw rotation about an earth-vertical axis were measured at seven frequencies (0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, and 5 Hz) in seven subjects in the dark. Motion stimuli consisted of single cycles of sinusoidal acceleration and were generated by a motion platform. An adaptive two-alternative categorical forced-choice procedure was used. The subjects had to indicate by button presses whether they perceived yaw rotation to the left or to the right. Thresholds were measured using a 3-down, 1-up staircase paradigm. Mean yaw rotation velocity thresholds were 2.8 deg s−1 for 0.05 Hz, 2.5 deg s−1 for 0.1 Hz, 1.7 deg s−1 for 0.2 Hz, 0.7 deg s−1 for 0.5 Hz, 0.6 deg s−1 for 1 Hz, 0.4 deg s−1 for 2 Hz, and 0.6 deg s−1 for 5 Hz. The results show that motion thresholds increase at 0.2 Hz and below and plateau at 0.5 Hz and above. Increasing velocity thresholds at lower frequencies qualitatively mimic the high-pass characteristics of the semicircular canals, since the increase at 0.2 Hz and below would be consistent with decreased gain/sensitivity observed in the VOR at lower frequencies. In fact, the measured dynamics are consistent with a high pass filter having a threshold plateau of 0.71 deg s-1 and a cut-off frequency of 0.23 Hz, which corresponds to a time constant of approximately 0.70 s. These findings provide no evidence for an influence of velocity storage on perceptual yaw rotation thresholds.
Vestibular Psychophysics Semicircular canals Sensory threshold Human