The role of spatial and temporal information in biological motion perception

Adv Cogn Psychol. 2008 Jul 15;3(4):419-28. doi: 10.2478/v10053-008-0006-3.


Point-light biological motion stimuli provide spatio-temporal information about the structure of the human body in motion. Manipulation of the spatial structure of point-light stimuli reduces the ability of human observers to perceive biological motion. A recent study has reported that interference with the spatial structure of pointlight walkers also reduces the evoked eventrelated potentials over the occipitotemporal cortex, but that interference with the temporal structure of the stimuli evoked event-related potentials similar to normal biological motion stimuli. We systematically investigated the influence of spatial and temporal manipulation on 2 common discrimination tasks and compared it with predictions of a neurocomputational model previously proposed. This model first analyzes the spatial structure of the stimulus independently of the temporal information to derive body posture and subsequently analyzes the temporal sequence of body postures to derive movement direction. Similar to the model predictions, the psychophysical results show that human observers need only intact spatial configuration of the stimulus to discriminate the facing direction of a point-light walker. In contrast, movement direction discrimination needs a fully intact spatiotemporal pattern of the stimulus. The activation levels in the model predict the observed eventrelated potentials for the spatial and temporal manipulations.

Keywords: biological motion; event-related potentials; model; task dependency.