Our new study published in Journal of Vision, investigates the role of allocentric and egocentric reference frames in the updating of line orientation across head rotations.
The brain can use multiple reference frames to code line orientation, including head-, object-, and gravity-centered references. If these frames change orientation, their representations must be updated to keep register with actual line orientation. We tested this internal updating during head rotation in roll, exploiting the rod-and-frame effect: The illusory tilt of a vertical line surrounded by a tilted visual frame. If line orientation is stored relative to gravity, these distortions should also affect the updating process. Alternatively, if coding is head- or frame-centered, updating errors should be related to the changes in their orientation. Ten subjects were instructed to memorize the orientation of a briefly flashed line, surrounded by a tilted visual frame, then rotate their head, and subsequently judge the orientation of a second line relative to the memorized first while the frame was upright. Results showed that updating errors were mostly related to the amount of subjective distortion of gravity at both the initial and final head orientation, rather than to the amount of intervening head rotation. In some subjects, a smaller part of the updating error was also related to the change of visual frame orientation. We conclude that the brain relies primarily on a gravity-based reference to remember line orientation during head roll.
Niehof N, Tramper JJ, Doeller CF, Medendorp WP (2017). Updating of visual orientation in a gravity-based reference frame. Journal of Vision.