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Influence of multisensory graviceptive information on the apparent zenith


We studied the contribution of vestibular and somatosensory/proprioceptive stimulation to the perception of the apparent zenith (AZ). Experiment 1 involved rotation on a centrifuge and settings of the AZ. Subjects were supine on the centrifuge, and their body position was varied in relation to the rotation axis so that the gravitoinertial resultant force at the otoliths was 1 or 1.2 g with the otolith organs positioned 50 or 100 cm from the axis of rotation. Their legs were also positioned in different configurations, flexed and elevated or extended, to create different distributions of blood and lymph. Experiment 2 involved (a) settings of the AZ for subjects positioned supine with legs fully extended or legs flexed and elevated to create a torsoward shift of blood and (b) settings of the subjective visual vertical for subjects horizontally positioned on their sides with legs extended or bent. Experiment 3 had subjects in the same body configurations as in Experiment 2 indicate when they were horizontal as they were rotated in pitch or roll about an inter-aural or naso-occipital axis. The experimental results for all three experiments demonstrated that both visual localization and apparent body horizontal are jointly determined by multimodal combinations of otolithic and somatosensory/proprioceptive stimulation. No evidence was found for non-overlapping or exclusive mechanisms determining one or the other. The subjective postural horizontal and AZ were affected in similar ways by comparable manipulations.

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The authors would like to thank Professor MITTELSTAEDT for his helpful and graceful comments and valuable suggestions. Professor MITTELSTAEDT still disagrees with some of our conclusions and future experiments will be necessary to resolve the discrepancy between his and our interpretations. Gratitude is also expressed to PA BARRAUD and A ROUX of the Instrumentation and Technological Research Service of the Centre de Recherches du Service de Santé des Armées for the construction of the experimental device and the technical expertise and assistance. Amy LAVALLEE conducted Experiment 3 and did an outstanding job. The authors would like also to thank Dr KH KIM and W KUCHARSKI for developing software and hardware, respectively, for Experiment 2. Professor JR Lackner was supported by U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant FA9550 06 1 0102.

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Correspondence to C. Cian.

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Carriot, J., Cian, C., Paillard, A. et al. Influence of multisensory graviceptive information on the apparent zenith. Exp Brain Res 208, 569–579 (2011).

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  • Acceleration
  • Vestibular system
  • Otoliths
  • Orientation
  • Gravity
  • Gravitoinertial force
  • Perception
  • Visual vertical
  • Somatosensation
  • Proprioception