Self-motion sensitivity to visual yaw rotations in humans

Alessandro Nesti, Karl A. Beykirch, Paolo Pretto, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

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10 Citations (Scopus)


While moving through the environment, humans use vision to discriminate different self-motion intensities and to control their actions (e.g. maintaining balance or controlling a vehicle). How the intensity of visual stimuli affects self-motion perception is an open, yet important, question. In this study, we investigate the human ability to discriminate perceived velocities of visually induced illusory self-motion (vection) around the vertical (yaw) axis. Stimuli, generated using a projection screen (70 × 90 deg field of view), consist of a natural virtual environment (360 deg panoramic colour picture of a forest) rotating at constant velocity. Participants control stimulus duration to allow for a complete vection illusion to occur in every single trial. In a two-interval forced-choice task, participants discriminate a reference motion from a comparison motion, adjusted after every presentation, by indicating which rotation feels stronger. Motion sensitivity is measured as the smallest perceivable change in stimulus intensity (differential threshold) for eight participants at five rotation velocities (5, 15, 30, 45 and 60 deg/s). Differential thresholds for circular vection increase with stimulus velocity, following a trend well described by a power law with an exponent of 0.64. The time necessary for complete vection to arise is slightly but significantly longer for the first stimulus presentation (average 11.56 s) than for the second (9.13 s) and does not depend on stimulus velocity. Results suggest that lower differential thresholds (higher sensitivity) are associated with smaller rotations, because they occur more frequently during everyday experience. Moreover, results also suggest that vection is facilitated by a recent exposure, possibly related to visual motion after-effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-869
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Mar


  • Differential threshold
  • Perceptual nonlinearities
  • Psychophysics
  • Self-motion perception
  • Vection
  • Virtual reality
  • Yaw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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