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Optic Flow Induces Nonvisual Self-Motion Aftereffects - new publication by Cuturi & MacNeilage

Luigi Cuturi and Paul MacNeilage

There is strong evidence of shared neurophysiological substrates for visual and vestibular processing that likely support our capacity for estimating our own movement through the environment. We examined behavioral consequences of these shared substrates in the form of crossmodal aftereffects. In particular, we examined whether sustained exposure to a visual self-motion stimulus (i.e., optic flow) induces a subsequent bias in nonvisual (i.e., vestibular) self-motion perception in the opposite direction in darkness. Although several previous studies have investigated self-motion aftereffects, none have demonstrated crossmodal transfer, which is the strongest proof that the adapted mechanisms are generalized for self-motion processing. The crossmodal aftereffect was quantified using a motion-nulling procedure in which observers were physically translated on a motion platform to find the movement required to cancel the visually induced aftereffect. Crossmodal transfer was elicited only with the longest-duration visual adaptor (15 s), suggesting that transfer requires sustained vection (i.e., visually induced self-motion perception). Visual-only aftereffects were also measured, but the magnitudes of visual-only and crossmodal aftereffects were not correlated, indicating distinct underlying mechanisms. We propose that crossmodal aftereffects can be understood as an example of contingent or contextual adaptation that arises in response to correlations across signals and functions to reduce these correlations in order to increase coding efficiency. According to this view, crossmodal aftereffects in general (e.g., visual-auditory or visual-tactile) can be explained as accidental manifestations of mechanisms that constantly function to calibrate sensory modalities with each other as well as with the environment.

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