Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 4, pp 1185–1191 | Cite as

Spontaneous postural sway predicts the strength of smooth vection

  • Stephen Palmisano
  • Deborah Apthorp
  • Takeharu Seno
  • Paul J. Stapley
Research Article


This study asked whether individual differences in the influence of vision on postural stability could be used to predict the strength of subsequently induced visual illusions of self-motion (vection). In the experiment, we first measured spontaneous postural sway while subjects stood erect for 60 s with their eyes both open and both closed. We then showed our subjects two types of self-motion display: radially expanding optic flow (simulating constant velocity forwards self-motion) and vertically oscillating radially expanding optic flow (simulating constant velocity forwards self-motion combined with vertical head oscillation). As expected, subjects swayed more with their eyes closed (compared to open) and experienced more compelling illusions of self-motion with vertically oscillating (as opposed to smooth) radial flow. The extent to which participants relied on vision for postural stability—measured as the ratio of sway with eyes closed compared to that with eyes open—was found to predict vection strength. However, this was only the case for displays representing smooth self-motion. It seems that for oscillating displays, other factors, such as visual–vestibular interactions, may be more important.


Self-motion Vection Postural sway Vision Optic flow 



This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant to SP (DP0772398).


  1. Apthorp, D., Stapley P, Palmisano S (2013) Individual variations in visual control of posture predict vection. Perception 42(ECVP abstract supplement):172 Google Scholar
  2. Berthoz A, Lacour M, Soechting JF, Vidal PP (1979) The role of vision in the control of posture during linear motion. Prog Brain Res 50:197–209PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Howard IP (1982) Human visual orientation. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  4. Hufschmidt A, Dichgans J, Mauritz KH, Hufschmidt M (1980) Some methods and parameters of body sway quantification and their neurological application. Archiv Psychiatrie Nervenkrankh 228:135–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kelly JW, Riecke B, Loomis JM, Beall AC (2008) Visual control of posture in real and virtual environments. Percept Psychophys 70:158–165. doi: 10.3758/PP.70.1.158 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kim J, Palmisano S (2008) Effects of active and passive viewpoint jitter on vection in depth. Brain Res Bull 77:335–342. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2008.09.011 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kim J, Palmisano S, Bonato F (2012) Simulated angular head oscillation enhances vection in depth. Perception 41:402–414. doi: 10.1068/p6919 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Koslucher FC, Haaland EJ, Stoffregen TA (2014) Body load and the postural precursors of motion sickness. Gait Posture 39:606–610 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kuno S, Kawakita T, Kawakami O, Miyake Y, Watanabe S (1999) Postural adjustment response to depth direction moving patterns produced by virtual reality graphics. Jap J Physiol 49:417–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lacour M, Barthelemy J, Borel L, Magnan J, Xerri C, Chays A, Ouaknine M (1997) Sensory strategies in human postural control before and after unilateral vestibular neurotomy. Exp Brain Res 115:300–310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee DN, Lishman JR (1975) Visual proprioceptive control of stance. J Hum Mov Stud 1:87–95Google Scholar
  12. Lestienne F, Soechting J, Berthoz A (1977) Postural readjustments Induced by linear motion of visual scenes. Exp Brain Res 28:363–384PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Lishman JR, Lee DN (1973) The autonomy of visual kinaesthesis. Perception 2:287–294PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nakamura S (2010) Additional oscillation can facilitate visually induced self-motion perception: the effect of its coherence and amplitude gradient. Perception 39:320–329. doi: 10.1068/p6534 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Nakamura S (2013) Effects of additional visual oscillation on vection under voluntary eye movement conditions—retinal image motion is critical in vection facilitation. Perception 42:529–536. doi: 10.1068/p7486 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Palmisano S, Bonato F, Bubka A, Folder J (2007) Vertical Display Oscillation Increases Vection in Depth and Simulator Sickness. Aviat Space Environ Med 78:951–956. doi: 10.3357/ASEM.2079.2007 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Palmisano S, Allison RS, Pekin F (2008) Accelerating self-motion displays produce more compelling vection in depth. Perception 37:22–33. doi: 10.1068/p5806 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Palmisano S, Pinniger GJ, Ash A, Steele JR (2009) Effects of simulated viewpoint jitter on visually induced postural sway. Perception 38:442–453. doi: 10.1068/p6159 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Palmisano S, Allison RS, Kim J, Bonato F (2011) Simulated Viewpoint jitter shakes sensory conflict accounts of self-motion perception. Seeing Perceiving 24:173–200. doi: 10.1163/187847511X570817 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Palmisano S, Kim J, Freeman TCA (2012) Horizontal fixation point oscillation and simulated viewpoint oscillation both increase vection in depth. J Vis 12(12:15):1–14. doi: 10.1167/12.12.15 Google Scholar
  21. Previc FH, Mullen TJ (1990) A comparison of the latencies of visually induced postural change and self-motion perception. J Vestib Res 1:317–323PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Smart LJ, Stoffregen TA, Bardy BG (2002) Visually induced motion sickness predicted by postural instability. Hum Factors 44:451–465. doi: 10.1518/0018720024497745 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stapley P, Beretta MV, Toffola ED, Schieppati M (2006) Neck muscle fatigue and postural control in patients with whiplash injury. Clin Neurophysiol 117:610–622. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2005.11.007 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stoffregen TA (1985) Flow structure versus retinal location in the optical control of stance. J Exp Psychol Hum 11:554–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stoffregen TA, Smart LJ (1998) Postural instability precedes motion sickness. Brain Res Bull 47:437–448PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stoffregen TA, Hettinger LJ, Haas MW, Roe M, Smart LJ (2000) Postural instability and motion sickness in a fixed-base flight simulator. Hum Factors 42:458–469PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Stoffregen TA, Yoshida K, Villard S, Scibora L, Bardy BG (2010) Stance width influences postural stability and motion sickness. Ecological Psychology 22:169–191 doi: 10.1080/10407413.2010.496645 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tanahashi S, Ujike H, Kozawa R, Ukai K (2007) Effects of visually simulated roll motion on vection and postural stabilization. J Neuroeng Rehabil 4:1–11. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-4-39 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Thurrell AEI, Bronstein AM (2002) Vection increases the magnitude and accuracy of visually evoked postural responses. Exp Brain Res 147:558–560. doi: 10.1007/s00221-002-1296-1 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Van Asten WNJC, Gielen CCAM, van der Gon JJD (1988) Postural adjustments induced by simulated motion of differently structured environments. Exp Brain Res 73:371–383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Van Parys JAP, Njiokiktjien CJ (1976) Romberg’s sign expressed in a quotient. Agressologie 17B:95–100Google Scholar
  32. Villard SJ, Flanagan MB, Albanese GM, Stoffregen TA (2008) Postural instability and motion sickness in a virtual moving room. Hum Factors 50:332–345PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Palmisano
    • 1
  • Deborah Apthorp
    • 2
  • Takeharu Seno
    • 3
  • Paul J. Stapley
    • 4
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.Research School of PsychologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Advanced StudyKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  4. 4.School of MedicineUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

Personalised recommendations