, Volume 219, Issue 4, pp 477-487
Date: 05 May 2012

Fore–aft translation aftereffects

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Abstract

A general theme in sensory perception is that exposure to a stimulus makes it seem more neutral such that perception of subsequent stimuli is shifted in the opposite direction. The visual motion aftereffect (MAE) is an extensively studied example of this. Although similar effects have been described in other sensory systems, it has not previously been described in the vestibular system. Velocity storage has been extensively studied in the vestibular system and suggests a persistence of perception in the direction of the initial movement. The current study sought to determine how motion perception is influenced by prior movement in darkness. Thirteen human subjects (mean age 41, range 21–68) underwent whole-body fore–aft translation. The threshold of vestibular motion discrimination perception was measured using a single interval (1I) of motion lasting 0.5 s in which subjects identified their direction of motion as forward or backward using an adaptive staircase. The translation aftereffect (TAE) was measured in 2-interval (2I) experiments: The adapting stimulus moved 15 cm in 1.5 s (peak velocity 20 cm/s, peak acceleration 42 cm/s2). After a fixed inter-stimulus interval (ISI) of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, or 3 s, a second stimulus lasting 0.5 s was delivered and the subject identified the perceived direction of the second test stimulus. The test stimulus was determined using an adaptive staircase. The ISI was constant within the block, but adapting stimuli directions were randomly interleaved. During the 1I condition, the response bias was near zero in all subjects. With a 2I stimulus, 8 of 13 subjects demonstrated a significant bias. At an ISI of 0.5 s, a minority of subjects demonstrated a bias in the same direction as the adapter. When the ISI was 1, 1.5, or 3 s, all subjects who demonstrated a significant TAE had one in the opposite direction of the adapter, similar to that seen for MAE. When averaged across subjects, the TAE was significant with ISIs of 1.0 s and above. These findings demonstrate that perception of vestibular stimuli depends on prior motion. This has important implications for understanding and quantifying vestibular perception.