Robustness of perception of heading from optic flow

Vision Res. 1992 Jul;32(7):1285-96. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(92)90223-6.


Heading discrimination in optic flow stimuli was investigated in 5 humans. Flow patterns consisted of a computer generated motion sequence which showed a mixture of randomly moving and coherently-moving points. The motion of the coherently-moving fiducial points was completely determined by the changing position of the observer's simulated vantage point. Ego-rotation as well as ego-translation was simulated. Noise and fiducial points were confined to the ground plane in most experiments. In one experiment the points formed a cloud with no visible horizon. The results indicate that heading perception is robust against degradation of the flow-field by the presence of noise or by the reduction of the lifetime of the fiducial points. The results suggest that points, which move independently from the reference frame as formed by the fiducial points, are to a large extent removed from the analysis of optic flow by the visual process which derives the heading. The motion of recognizable points at infinity (like the horizon) appears to be essential for robust heading perception in the presence of ego-rotations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology