Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 219, Issue 3, pp 369–379

Suprathreshold asymmetries in human motion perception

Research Article


Detection of asymmetries has been a mainstay of using vestibular reflexes to assess semicircular canal function. However, there has been relatively little work on how vestibular stimuli are perceived. Suprathreshold vestibular perception was measured in 13 normal healthy controls by having them compare the relative sizes of two yaw (vertical-axis rotation) or sway (right–left translation) stimuli. Both stimuli were 1.5 s in duration with a staircase used to adjust the relative size of the stimuli to find a pair of stimuli perceived as equal. Motion stimuli were delivered in darkness using a hexapod motion platform, and visual stimuli simulating motion were presented on a screen in the absence of platform motion. Both same direction (SD) and opposite direction (OD) stimuli were delivered in separate runs. After a two-interval stimulus, subjects reported which movement they perceived as larger. Cumulative distribution functions were fit to the responses so that the relative magnitudes of the two stimuli perceived as equal could be determined. For OD trial blocks, a directional asymmetry index was calculated to compare the relative size of perceived rightward and leftward motion. For all trial blocks, a temporal asymmetry index (TAI) was used to compare the relative size of the first and second intervals. Motion OD stimuli were perceived as equal in all subjects in yaw and all but one in sway. For visual OD stimuli, two subjects had slightly asymmetric responses for both sway and yaw. The TAI demonstrated asymmetry in 54 % in yaw, in which the second interval was perceived to be larger in all but one subject who had an asymmetry. For sway, only two subjects had a significant asymmetry. Visual stimuli produced a similar rate of asymmetry. The direction and magnitude of these asymmetries were not significantly correlated with those seen for motion stimuli. Asymmetries were found in a fraction with the TAI in SD stimuli for motion in yaw (42 %) and sway (33 %), as well as for vision in yaw (60 %) and sway (43 %). The precision at discriminating SD motion stimuli decreased significantly with age, but there was no difference in OD motion or visual stimuli.


Vestibular Semi-circular canals Otoliths 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OtolaryngologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurobiology and AnatomyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Department of BioengineeringUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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