Multisensory Interactions in Head and Body Centered Perception of Verticality

K.N. de Winkel, Ellen Edel, R. Happee, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Percepts of verticality are thought to be constructed as a weighted average of multisensory inputs, but the observed weights differ considerably between studies. In the present study, we evaluate whether this can be explained by differences in how visual, somatosensory and proprioceptive cues contribute to representations of the Head In Space (HIS) and Body In Space (BIS). Participants (10) were standing on a force plate on top of a motion platform while wearing a visualization device that allowed us to artificially tilt their visual surroundings. They were presented with (in)congruent combinations of visual, platform, and head tilt, and performed Rod & Frame Test (RFT) and Subjective Postural Vertical (SPV) tasks. We also recorded postural responses to evaluate the relation between perception and balance. The perception data shows that body tilt, head tilt, and visual tilt affect the HIS and BIS in both experimental tasks. For the RFT task, visual tilt induced considerable biases (≈ 10° for 36° visual tilt) in the direction of the vertical expressed in the visual scene; for the SPV task, participants also adjusted platform tilt to correct for illusory body tilt induced by the visual stimuli, but effects were much smaller (≈ 0.25°). Likewise, postural data from the SPV task indicate participants slightly shifted their weight to counteract visual tilt (0.3° for 36° visual tilt). The data reveal a striking dissociation of visual effects between the two tasks. We find that the data can be explained well using a model where percepts of the HIS and BIS are constructed from direct signals from head and body sensors, respectively, and indirect signals based on body and head signals but corrected for perceived neck tilt. These findings show that perception of the HIS and BIS derive from the same sensory signals, but see profoundly different weighting factors. We conclude that observations of different weightings between studies likely result from querying of distinct latent constructs referenced to the body or head in space.
Original languageEnglish
Article number599226
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • somatosensation
  • proprioception
  • vision
  • vertical
  • rod and frame
  • postural vertical
  • multisensory perception and integration


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