Roll rotation cues influence roll tilt perception assayed using a somatosensory technique

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Jul;96(1):486-91. doi: 10.1152/jn.01163.2005. Epub 2006 Mar 29.


We investigated how the nervous system processes ambiguous cues from the otolith organs by measuring roll tilt perception elicited by two motion paradigms. In one paradigm (tilt), eight subjects were sinusoidally tilted in roll with the axis of rotation near ear level. Stimulus frequencies ranged from 0.005 to 0.7 Hz, and the peak amplitude of tilt was 20 degrees . During this paradigm, subjects experienced a sinusoidal variation of interaural gravitational force with a peak of 0.34 g. The second motion paradigm (translation) was designed to yield the same sinusoidal variation in interaural force but did not include a roll canal cue. This was achieved by sinusoidally translating the subjects along their interaural axis. For the 0.7-Hz translation trial, the subjects were simply translated from side to side. A centrifuge was used for the 0.005- to 0.5-Hz translation trials; the subjects were rotated in yaw at 250 degrees /s for 5 min before initiating sinusoidal translations yielding an interaural otolith stimulus composed of both centrifugal and radial acceleration. Using a somatosensory task to measure roll tilt perception, we found substantial differences in tilt perception during the two motion paradigms. Because the primary difference between the two motion paradigms was the presence of roll canal cues during roll tilt trials, these perceptual differences suggest that canal cues influence tilt perception. Specifically, rotational cues provided by the semicircular canals help the CNS resolve ambiguous otolith cues during head tilt, yielding more accurate tilt perception.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ear Canal / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Female
  • Gravity Sensing / physiology
  • Head-Down Tilt / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Rotation*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*