Vestibular perception is slow

Involuntary physical responses to vestibular stimulation are very fast. The vestibulo-ocular reflex, for example, occurs approximately 20ms after the onset of vestibular stimulation (Lorente de No, 1933). Surprisingly, despite these fast responses, reaction time (RT) to the perceived onset of vestibular stimulation occurs as late as 438ms after galvanic vestibular stimulation, which is approximately 220ms later than RTs to visual, somatosensory and auditory stimuli (Barnett-Cowan & Harris, 2009). Here we investigate why vestibular perception is slow.
 
An initial investigation tested the hypothesis that RTs to natural vestibular stimulation (as opposed to galvanic vestibular stimulation) are also slow. Participants were passively moved forwards using the Stewart motion platform and were asked to press a button relative to the onset of physical motion. RTs to auditory and visual stimuli were also collected. RTs to physical motion occurred significantly later (about 100ms) than RTs to auditory and visual stimuli. Event related potentials (ERPs) were simultaneously recorded where the onset of the vestibular-ERP in both RT and non-RT trials occurred about 200ms or more after stimulus onset while the onset of the auditory- and visual-ERPs occurred less than 100ms after stimulus onset. All stimuli ERPs occurred approximately 135ms prior to RTs. These results provide further evidence that vestibular perception is slow compared to the other senses and that this perceptual latency may be related to latent cortical responses to physical motion. The next phase of our investigations will assess reaction time and ERP responses to passive motion while manipulating peak velocity, acceleration and jerk. Perceived simultaneity of passive motion paired with moving visual stimuli will also be assessed.

References

Barnett-Cowan M Person, Nolan H , Butler JS Person, Foxe JJ , Reilly RB and Bülthoff HH Person (May-2010): Reaction time and event-related potentials to visual, auditory and vestibular stimuli, 10th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society (VSS 2010), Naples, FL, USA, Journal of Vision, 10(7) 1400.
CiteID: 6212
Barnett-Cowan M Person and Harris LR (September-2009) Perceived timing of vestibular stimulation relative to touch, light and sound Experimental Brain Research 198(2-3) 221-231.
CiteID: 6000

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Last updated: Friday, 05.10.2012