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Li Li, Barbara T. Sweet, Leland S. Stone; Humans can perceive heading without visual path information. Journal of Vision 2006;6(9):2. doi: 10.1167/6.9.2.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It has previously been reported that humans can determine their direction of 3D translation (heading) from the 2D velocity field of retinal motion experienced during self-motion through a rigid environment, as is done by current computational models of visual heading estimation from optic flow. However, these claims were supported by studies that used stimuli that contained low rotational flow rates and/or additional visual cues beyond the velocity field or a task in which observers were asked to indicate their future trajectory of self-motion (path). Thus, previous conclusions about heading estimation have been confounded by the presence of other visual factors beyond the velocity field, by the use of a path-estimation task, or both. In particular, path estimation involves an exocentric computation with respect to an environmental reference, whereas heading estimation is an egocentric computation with respect to one's line of sight. Here, we use a heading-adjustment task to demonstrate that humans can precisely estimate their heading from the velocity field, independent of visual information about path, displacement, layout, or acceleration, with accuracy robust to rotation rates at least as high as 20 deg/s. Our findings show that instantaneous velocity-field information about heading is directly available for the visual control of locomotion and steering.
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