The interactive contribution of neck muscle proprioception and vestibular stimulation to subjective "straight ahead" orientation in man

Exp Brain Res. 1994;101(1):140-6. doi: 10.1007/BF00243223.


Seventeen normal subjects were asked to direct a laser point to the position they felt to lie exactly straight ahead of their body. Subjects were seated in complete darkness in an approximately spherical cabin in an upright position with the orientation of the trunk and head aligned. For both the horizontal and vertical plane, "straight ahead" judgements were closely scattered around the objective straight ahead body position. Posterior neck muscle vibration as well as caloric vestibular stimulation with ice water led to (1) an apparent motion and horizontal displacement of a stationary visual target to the side opposite to stimulation and (2) a horizontal deviation of subjective "straight ahead" perception toward the side of stimulation. Only those subjects who experienced an illusion of target motion also showed a deviation of their subjective body orientation. No systematic effect of a displacement of subjective body orientation in the vertical plane was detected. When vestibular stimulation and neck muscle vibration were combined their effects were additive, i.e. the horizontal deviation of subjective body orientation observed when either type of stimulation was applied in isolation, was linearly combined either by summation or by cancellation. The present results clearly support the assumption that afferent visual, vestibular and proprioceptive input converge to the neural generation of an egocentric, body-centred coordinate system that allows us to determine our body position with respect to visual space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Proprioception*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*
  • Vibration