Human perceptual overestimation of whole body roll tilt in hypergravity

TitleHuman perceptual overestimation of whole body roll tilt in hypergravity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsClark, T. K., M. C. Newman, C. M. Oman, D. M. Merfeld, and L. R. Young
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Start Page2062-2077
Date Published12/2014
MVL Report Number15.21
KeywordsHuman, hypergravity, orientation perception, roll tilt, vestibular

Hypergravity provides a unique environment to study human perception of orientation. We utilized a  long-radius centrifuge to study perception of both static and dynamic whole body roll tilt in hypergravity, across a range of angles, frequencies, and net gravito-inertial levels (referred to as G levels). While studies of static tilt perception in hypergravity have been published, this is the first to measure dynamic tilt perception (i.e., with time-varying canal stimulation) in hypergravity using a continuous matching task. In complete darkness, subjects reported their orientation perception using a haptic task, whereby they attempted to align a hand-held bar with their perceived horizontal. Static roll tilt was overestimated in hypergravity, with more overestimation at larger angles and higher G levels, across the conditions tested (overestimated by 35% per additional G level, P < 0.001). As our primary contribution, we show that dynamic roll tilt was also consistently overestimated in hypergravity (P < 0.001) at all angles and frequencies tested, again with more overestimation at higher G levels. The overestimation was similar to that for static tilts at low angular velocities but decreased at higher angular velocities (P = 0.006), consistent with semicircular canal sensory integration. To match our findings, we propose a modification to a previous Observer-type canal-otolith interaction model. Specifically, our data were better modeled by including the hypothesis that the central nervous system treats otolith stimulation in the utricular plane differently than stimulation out of the utricular plane. This modified model was able to simulate quantitatively both the static and the dynamic roll tilt overestimation in hypergravity measured experimentally.

Alternate JournalJ. Neurophysiol
Refereed DesignationRefereed