Representation of heading direction in far and near head space

Exp Brain Res. 2003 Aug;151(4):501-13. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1498-1. Epub 2003 Jun 27.


Manipulation of objects around the head requires an accurate and stable internal representation of their locations in space, also during movements such as that of the eye or head. For far space, the representation of visual stimuli for goal-directed arm movements relies on retinal updating, if eye movements are involved. Recent neurophysiological studies led us to infer that a transformation of visual space from retinocentric to a head-centric representation may be involved for visual objects in close proximity to the head. The first aim of this study was to investigate if there is indeed such a representation for remembered visual targets of goal-directed arm movements. Participants had to point toward an initially foveated central target after an intervening saccade. Participants made errors that reflect a bias in the visuomotor transformation that depends on eye displacement rather than any head-centred variable. The second issue addressed was if pointing toward the centre of a wide-field expanding motion pattern involves a retinal updating mechanism or a transformation to a head-centric map and if that process is distance dependent. The same pattern of pointing errors in relation to gaze displacement was found independent of depth. We conclude that for goal-directed arm movements, representation of the remembered visual targets is updated in a retinal frame, a mechanism that is actively used regardless of target distance, stimulus characteristics or the requirements of the task.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiology
  • Calibration
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Saccades
  • Space Perception / physiology*