Impacts of Rotation Axis and Frequency on Vestibular Perceptual Thresholds
In an effort to characterize the factors influencing the perception of self-motion rotational cues, vestibular self-motion perceptual thresholds were measured in 14 subjects for rotations in the roll and pitch planes, as well as in the planes aligned with the anatomic orientation of the vertical semicircular canals (i.e., left anterior, right posterior; LARP, and right anterior, left posterior; RALP). To determine the multisensory influence of concurrent otolith cues, within each plane of motion, thresholds were measured at four discrete frequencies for rotations about earth-horizontal (i.e., tilts; EH) and earth-vertical axes (i.e., head positioned in the plane of the rotation; EV). We found that the perception of rotations, stimulating primarily the vertical canals, was consistent with the behavior of a high-pass filter for all planes of motion, with velocity thresholds increasing at lower frequencies of rotation. In contrast, tilt (i.e, EH rotation) velocity thresholds, stimulating both the canals and otoliths (i.e., multisensory integration), decreased at lower frequencies and were significantly lower than earth-vertical rotation thresholds at each frequency below 2 Hz. These data suggest that multisensory integration of otolithic gravity cues with semicircular canal rotation cues enhances perceptual precision for tilt motions at frequencies below 2 Hz. We also showed that rotation thresholds, at least partially, were dependent on the orientation of the rotation plane relative to the anatomical alignment of the vertical canals. Collectively these data provide the first comprehensive report of how frequency and axis of rotation influence perception of rotational self-motion cues stimulating the vertical canals.