Pursuit compensation during self-motion

Perception. 2001;30(12):1465-88. doi: 10.1068/p3271.


The pattern of motion in the retinal image during self-motion contains information about the person's movement. Pursuit eye movements perturb the pattern of retinal-image motion, complicating the problem of self-motion perception. A question of considerable current interest is the relative importance of retinal and extra-retinal signals in compensating for these effects of pursuit on the retinal image. We addressed this question by examining the effect of prior motion stimuli on self-motion judgments during pursuit. Observers viewed 300 ms random-dot displays simulating forward self-motion during pursuit to the right or to the left; at the end of each display a probe appeared and observers judged whether they would pass left or right of it. The display was preceded by a 300 ms dot pattern that was either stationary or moved in the same direction as, or opposite to, the eye movement. This prior motion stimulus had a large effect on self-motion judgments when the simulated scene was a frontoparallel wall (experiment 1), but not when it was a three-dimensional (3-D) scene (experiment 2). Corresponding simulated-pursuit conditions controlled for purely retinal motion aftereffects, implying that the effect in experiment 1 is mediated by an interaction between retinal and extra-retinal signals. In experiment 3, we examined self-motion judgments with respect to a 3-D scene with mixtures of real and simulated pursuit. When real and simulated pursuits were in opposite directions, performance was determined by the total amount of pursuit-related retinal motion, consistent with an extra-retinal 'trigger' signal that facilitates the action of a retinally based pursuit-compensation mechanism. However, results of experiment 1 without a prior motion stimulus imply that extra-retinal signals are more informative when retinal information is lacking. We conclude that the relative importance of retinal and extra-retinal signals for pursuit compensation varies with the informativeness of the retinal motion pattern, at least for short durations. Our results provide partial explanations for a number of findings in the literature on perception of self-motion and motion in the frontal plane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Depth Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic