In the natural world, self-motion always stimulates several different sensory modalities. Here we investigated the interplay between a visual optic flow stimulus simulating self-motion and a tactile stimulus (air flow resulting from self-motion) while human observers were engaged in a distance reproduction task. We found that adding congruent tactile information (i.e., speed of the air flow and speed of visual motion are directly proportional) to the visual information significantly improves the precision of the actively reproduced distances. This improvement, however, was smaller than predicted for an optimal integration of visual and tactile information. In contrast, incongruent tactile information (i.e., speed of the air flow and speed of visual motion are inversely proportional) did not improve subjects' precision indicating that incongruent tactile information and visual information were not integrated. One possible interpretation of the results is a link to properties of neurons in the ventral intraparietal area that have been shown to have spatially and action-congruent receptive fields for visual and tactile stimuli.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study shows that tactile and visual information can be integrated to improve the estimates of the parameters of self-motion. This, however, happens only if the two sources of information are congruent-as they are in a natural environment. In contrast, an incongruent tactile stimulus is still used as a source of information about self-motion but it is not integrated with visual information.
Keywords: distance reproduction; multimodal integration; simulated self-motion; tactile; visual.
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