Published In

Biological Cybernetics

Document Type


Publication Date



Perceptual-motor processes -- Mathematical models, Vestibular apparatus, Intersensory effects, Motion perception (Vision)


Human off-vertical axis rotation (OVAR) in the dark typically produces perceived motion about a cone, the amplitude of which changes as a function of frequency. This perception is commonly attributed to the fact that both the OVAR and the conical motion have a gravity vector that rotates about the subject. Little-known, however, is that this rotating-gravity explanation for perceived conical motion is inconsistent with basic observations about self-motion perception: (a) that the perceived vertical moves toward alignment with the gravito-inertial acceleration (GIA) and (b) that perceived translation arises from perceived linear acceleration, as derived from the portion of the GIA not associated with gravity. Mathematically proved in this article is the fact that during OVAR these properties imply mismatched phase of perceived tilt and translation, in contrast to the common perception of matched phases which correspond to conical motion with pivot at the bottom. This result demonstrates that an additional perceptual rule is required to explain perception in OVAR. This study investigates, both analytically and computationally, the phase relationship between tilt and translation at different stimulus rates—slow (45°/s) and fast (180°/s), and the three-dimensional shape of predicted perceived motion, under different sets of hypotheses about self-motion perception. We propose that for human motion perception, there is a phase-linking of tilt and translation movements to construct a perception of one’s overall motion path. Alternative hypotheses to achieve the phase match were tested with three-dimensional computational models, comparing the output with published experimental reports. The best fit with experimental data was the hypothesis that the phase of perceived translation was linked to perceived tilt, while the perceived tilt was determined by the GIA. This hypothesis successfully predicted the bottom-pivot cone commonly reported and a reduced sense of tilt during fast OVAR. Similar considerations apply to the hilltop illusion often reported during horizontal linear oscillation. Known response properties of central neurons are consistent with this ability to phase-link translation with tilt. In addition, the competing “standard” model was mathematically proved to be unable to predict the bottom-pivot cone regardless of the values used for parameters in the model.


The published version of this paper is in Biological Cybernetics 102 (2010) 9-29 doi:10.1007/s00422-009-0347-0



Persistent Identifier