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Nadine Hummel, Luigi F. Cuturi, Paul R. MacNeilage, Virginia L. Flanagin; The effect of supine body position on human heading perception. Journal of Vision 2016;16(3):19. doi: 10.1167/16.3.19.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
The use of virtual environments in functional imaging experiments is a promising method to investigate and understand the neural basis of human navigation and self-motion perception. However, the supine position in the fMRI scanner is unnatural for everyday motion. In particular, the head-horizontal self-motion plane is parallel rather than perpendicular to gravity. Earlier studies have shown that perception of heading from visual self-motion stimuli, such as optic flow, can be modified due to visuo-vestibular interactions. With this study, we aimed to identify the effects of the supine body position on visual heading estimation, which is a basic component of human navigation. Visual and vestibular heading judgments were measured separately in 11 healthy subjects in upright and supine body positions. We measured two planes of self-motion, the transverse and the coronal plane, and found that, although vestibular heading perception was strongly modified in a supine position, visual performance, in particular for the preferred head-horizontal (i.e., transverse) plane, did not change. This provides behavioral evidence in humans that direction estimation from self-motion consistent optic flow is not modified by supine body orientation, demonstrating that visual heading estimation is one component of human navigation that is not influenced by the supine body position required for functional brain imaging experiments.
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