Allocentric and egocentric reference frames in the processing of three-dimensional haptic space

Exp Brain Res. 2008 Jun;188(2):199-213. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1353-5. Epub 2008 Mar 27.


The main goal of our study is to gain insight into the reference frames involved in three-dimensional haptic spatial processing. Previous research has shown that two-dimensional haptic spatial processing is prone to large systematic deviations. A weighted average model that identifies the origin of the systematic error patterns in the biasing influence of an egocentric reference frame on the allocentric reference frame was proposed as an explanation of the results. The basis of the egocentric reference frame was linked either to the hand or to the body. In the present study participants had to construct a field of parallel bars that could be oriented in three dimensions. First, systematic error patterns were found also in this three-dimensional haptic parallelity task. Second, among the different models tested for their accuracy in explaining the error patterns, the Hand-centered weighted average model proved to most closely resemble the data. A participant-specific weighting factor determined the biasing influence of the hand-centered egocentric reference frame. A shift from the allocentric towards the egocentric frame of reference of approximately 20% was observed. These results support the hypothesis that haptic spatial processing is a product of the interplay of diverse, but synergistically operating frames of reference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Ego*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*