Skip to main content

The role of spatial acuity in a dynamic balancing task without gravitational cues

Abstract

In earlier studies, blindfolded participants used a joystick to orient themselves to the direction of balance in the horizontal roll plane while in a device programmed to behave like an inverted pendulum. In this spaceflight analog situation, position relevant gravitational cues are absent. Most participants show minimal learning, positional drifting, and failure of path integration. However, individual differences are substantial, some participants show learning and others become progressively worse. In Experiment 1, our goal was to determine whether spatial acuity could explain these individual differences in active balancing. We exposed blindfolded participants to passive movement profiles, with different frequency components, in the vertical and horizontal roll planes. They pressed a joystick trigger to indicate every time they passed the start point. We found greater spatial acuity for higher frequencies but no relation between passive spatial accuracy and active balance control in the horizontal roll plane, suggesting that spatial acuity in the horizontal roll plane does not predict performance in a disorienting spaceflight condition. In Experiment 2, we found significant correlations between passive spatial acuity in the vertical roll plane, where participants have task relevant gravitational cues, and early active balancing in the horizontal roll plane. These correlations appeared after participants underwent brief provocative vestibular stimulation by making a pitch head movement during vertical yaw rotation. Our findings suggest that vestibular stimulation may be a valuable part of assessments of individual differences in performance during initial exposure to disorienting spaceflight conditions where there are no reliable gravity dependent positional cues.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Bigelow RT, Agrawal Y (2015) Vestibular involvement in cognition: visuospatial ability, attention, executive function, and memory. J Vestib Res 25:73–89

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bles W, de Graaf B (1993) Postural consequences of long duration centrifugation. J Vestib Res Equilib Orient

  3. Collins JJ, De Luca CJ (1993) Open-loop and closed-loop control of posture: a random-walk analysis of center-of-pressure trajectories. Exp Brain Res 95:308–318

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Gibb R, Ercoline B, Scharff L (2011) Spatial disorientation: decades of pilot fatalities. Aviat Space Environ Med 82:717–724

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Grabherr L et al (2008) Vestibular thresholds for yaw rotation about an earth-vertical axis as a function of frequency. Exp Brain Res 186:677–681

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Graybiel A, Knepton J (1976) Sopite syndrome: a sometimes sole manifestation of motion sickness. Aviat Space Environ Med 47:873–882

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Graybiel A, Lackner J (1980) A sudden-stop vestibulovisual test for rapid assessment of motion sickness manifestations. Aviat Space Environ Med

  8. Graybiel A, Wood CD, Miller II EF (1968) Diagnostic criteria for grading the severity of acute motion sickness, vol 1030, Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Naval Aerospace Medical Center

  9. Graybiel A, Deane FR, Colehour JK (1969) Prevention of overt motion sickness by incremental exposure to otherwise highly stressful Coriolis accelerations. Aerosp Med 40:142–148

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Gresty MA et al (2008) Cognitive impairment by spatial disorientation. Aviat Space Environ Med 79:105–111

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hachard B et al (2020) Balance control is impaired by mental fatigue due to the fulfilment of a continuous cognitive task or by the watching of a documentary. Exp Brain Res 1–8

  12. Kaplan J et al (2017) The influence of sleep deprivation and oscillating motion on sleepiness, motion sickness, and cognitive and motor performance. Auton Neurosci 202:86–96

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Lackner JR, DiZio P (2009) Angular displacement perception modulated by force background. Exp Brain Res 195:335–343

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Lewkowicz R et al (2018) Selective auditory attention and spatial disorientation cues effect on flight performance. Aerosp Med Hum Perform 89:976–984

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. MacDougall HG et al (2006) Modeling postural instability with galvanic vestibular stimulation. Exp Brain Res 172:208–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Matsangas P, McCauley ME, Becker W (2014) The effect of mild motion sickness and sopite syndrome on multitasking cognitive performance. Hum Factors 56:1124–1135

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Moore ST, Dilda V, MacDougall HG (2011) Galvanic vestibular stimulation as an analogue of spatial disorientation after spaceflight. Aviat Space Environ Med 82:535–542

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. North RA, Gopher D (1974) Basic attention measures as predictors of success in flight training. In: Proceedings of the human factors society annual meeting, vol 18. SAGE Publications, Sage, pp 50–56

  19. North RA, Gopher D (1976) Measures of attention as predictors of flight performance. Hum Factors 18:1–14

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Ockels W, Furrer R, Messerschmid E (1990) Simulation of space adaptation syndrome on earth. Exp Brain Res 79:661–663

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Panic H et al (2015) Direction of balance and perception of the upright are perceptually dissociable. J Neurophysiol 113:3600–3609

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Panic AS et al (2017) Gravitational and somatosensory influences on control and perception of roll balance. Aerosp Med Hum Perform 88:993–999

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Rosenberg MJ et al (2018) Human manual control precision depends on vestibular sensory precision and gravitational magnitude. J Neurophysiol 120:3187–3197

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Shelhamer M (2015) Trends in sensorimotor research and countermeasures for exploration-class space flights. Front Syst Neurosci 9:115

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Tung VW et al (2016) Motor performance is impaired following vestibular stimulation in ageing mice. Front Aging Neurosci 8:12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Van Erp JB et al (2006) A tactile cockpit instrument supports the control of self-motion during spatial disorientation. Hum Factors 48:219–228

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Vimal VP, Lackner JR, DiZio P (2016) Learning dynamic control of body roll orientation. Exp Brain Res 234:483–492

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Vimal VP, DiZio P, Lackner JR (2017) Learning dynamic balancing in the roll plane with and without gravitational cues. Exp Brain Res 1–9

  29. Vimal VP, Lackner JR, DiZio P (2018) Learning dynamic control of body yaw orientation. Exp Brain Res 236:1321–1330

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Vimal VP, DiZio P, Lackner JR (2019) Learning and long-term retention of dynamic self-stabilization skills. Exp Brain Res 1–13

  31. Vimal VP et al (2020) Characterizing individual differences in a dynamic stabilization task using machine learning. Aerosp Med Hum Perform 91:479–488

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Wilson VJ (2013) Mammalian vestibular physiology. Springer Science & Business Media, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  33. Yardley L, Higgins M (1998) Spatial updating during rotation: the role of vestibular information and mental activity. J Vestib Res 8:435–442

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Yardley L et al (1999) Attentional demands of perception of passive self-motion in darkness. Neuropsychologia 37:1293–1301

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. VPV was supported by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health through NASA NNX16AO69A. The MARS device was provided by Air Force Office of Scientific Research AFOSR FA9550-12-1-0395. We thank Dr. Xiaodong Liu for advice on the statistics.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vivekanand Pandey Vimal.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Communicated by Bill J Yates.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vimal, V.P., DiZio, P. & Lackner, J.R. The role of spatial acuity in a dynamic balancing task without gravitational cues. Exp Brain Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-021-06239-w

Download citation

Keywords

  • Dynamic balance
  • Vehicle control
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Motor skill learning
  • Vestibular system
  • Somatosensation
  • Spaceflight analog
  • Spatial acuity
  • Vestibular stimulation
  • Path integration