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Abstract

As a prominent illusion, the motion aftereffect (MAE) has traditionally been considered a visual phenomenon. Recent neuroimaging work has revealed increased activities in MT+ and decreased activities in vestibular regions during the MAE, supporting the notion of visual–vestibular interaction on the MAE. Since the head had to remain stationary in fMRI experiments, vestibular self-motion signals were absent in those studies. Accordingly, more direct evidence is still lacking in terms of whether and how vestibular signals modulate the MAE. By developing a virtual reality approach, the present study for the first time demonstrates that horizontal head rotation affects the perceived velocity of the MAE. We found that the MAE was predominantly perceived as moving faster when its direction was opposite to the direction of head rotation than when its direction was the same as head rotation. The magnitude of this effect was positively correlated with the velocity of head rotation. Similar result patterns were not observed for the real motion stimuli. Our findings support a ‘cross-modal bias’ hypothesis that after living in a multisensory environment long-term the brain develops a strong association between signals from the visual and vestibular pathways. Consequently, weak biasing visual signals in the associated direction can spontaneously emerge with the input of vestibular signals in the multisensory brain areas, substantially modulating the illusory visual motion represented in those areas as well. The hypothesis can also be used to explain other multisensory integration phenomena.

In: Multisensory Research