Self-motion perception without sensory motion
Various studies have demonstrated a role for cognition on self-motion perception. Those studies all concerned modulations of the perception of a physical or visual motion stimulus. In our study, however, we investigated whether cognitive cues could elicit a percept of oscillatory self-motion in the absence of sensory motion. If so, we could use this percept to investigate if the resulting mismatch between estimated self-motion and a lack of corresponding sensory signals is motion sickening. To that end, we seated blindfolded participants on a swing that remained motionless during two conditions, apart from a deliberate perturbation at the start of each condition. The conditions only differed regarding instructions, a secondary task and a demonstration, which suggested either a quick halt (“Distraction”) or continuing oscillations of the swing (“Focus”). Participants reported that the swing oscillated with larger peak-to-peak displacements and for a longer period of time in the Focus condition. That increase was not reflected in the reported motion sickness scores, which did not differ between the two conditions. As the reported motion was rather small, the lack of an effect on the motion sickness response can be explained by assuming a subthreshold neural conflict. Our results support the existence of internal models relevant to sensorimotor processing and the potential of cognitive (behavioral) therapies to alleviate undesirable perceptual issues to some extent. We conclude that oscillatory self-motion can be perceived in the absence of related sensory stimulation, which advocates for the acknowledgement of cognitive cues in studies on self-motion perception. © 2022, The Author(s).
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Experimental Brain Research, 240 (240), 2677-2685