Roll-dependent modulation of the subjective visual vertical: contributions of head- and trunk-based signals.J Neurophysiol. 2010 Feb; 103(2):934-41.JN
Precision and accuracy of the subjective visual vertical (SVV) modulate in the roll plane. At large roll angles, systematic SVV errors are biased toward the subject's body-longitudinal axis and SVV precision is decreased. To explain this, SVV models typically implement a bias signal, or a prior, in a head-fixed reference frame and assume the sensory input to be optimally tuned along the head-longitudinal axis. We tested the pattern of SVV adjustments both in terms of accuracy and precision in experiments in which the head and the trunk reference frames were not aligned. Twelve subjects were placed on a turntable with the head rolled about 28 degrees counterclockwise relative to the trunk by lateral tilt of the neck to dissociate the orientation of head- and trunk-fixed sensors relative to gravity. Subjects were brought to various positions (roll of head- or trunk-longitudinal axis relative to gravity: 0 degrees , +/-75 degrees) and aligned an arrow with perceived vertical. Both accuracy and precision of the SVV were significantly (P < 0.05) better when the head-longitudinal axis was aligned with gravity. Comparing absolute SVV errors for clockwise and counterclockwise roll tilts, statistical analysis yielded no significant differences (P > 0.05) when referenced relative to head upright, but differed significantly (P < 0.001) when referenced relative to trunk upright. These findings indicate that the bias signal, which drives the SVV toward the subject's body-longitudinal axis, operates in a head-fixed reference frame. Further analysis of SVV precision supports the hypothesis that head-based graviceptive signals provide the predominant input for internal estimates of visual vertical.