Estimating heading during real and simulated eye movements

Vision Res. 1996 Feb;36(3):431-43. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(95)00122-0.


The ability to judge heading during tracking eye movements has recently been examined by several investigators. To assess the use of retinal-image and extra-retinal information in this task, the previous work has compared heading judgments with executed as opposed to simulated eye movements. For eye movement velocities greater than 1 deg/sec, observers seem to require the eye-velocity information provided by extra-retinal signals that accompany tracking eye movements. When those signals are not provided, such as with simulated eye movements, observers perceive their self-motion as curvilinear translation rather than the linear translation plus eye rotation being presented. The interpretation of the previous results is complicated, however, by the fact that the simulated eye movement condition may have created a conflict between two possible estimates of the heading: one based on extra-retinal solutions and the other based on retina-image solutions. In four experiments, we minimized this potential conflict by having observers judge heading in the presence of rotations consisting of mixtures of executed and simulated eye movements. The results showed that the heading is estimated more accurately when rotational flow is created by executed eye movements alone. In addition, the magnitude of errors in heading estimates is essentially proportional to the amount of rotational flow created by a simulated eye rotation (independent of the total magnitude of the rotational flow). The fact that error magnitude is proportional to the amount of simulated rotation suggests that the visual system attributes rotational flow unaccompanied by an eye movement to a displacement of the direction of translation in the direction of the simulated eye rotation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Rotation