Assessing the relative contribution of vision to odometry via manipulations of gait in an over-ground homing task

Steven J. Harrison, Nicholas Reynolds, Brandon Bishoff, Nicholas Stergiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The visual, vestibular, and haptic perceptual systems are each able to detect self-motion. Such information can be integrated during locomotion to perceive traversed distances. The process of distance integration is referred to as odometry. Visual odometry relies on information in optic flow patterns. For haptic odometry, such information is associated with leg movement patterns. Recently, it has been shown that haptic odometry is differently calibrated for different types of gaits. Here, we use this fact to examine the relative contributions of the perceptual systems to odometry. We studied a simple homing task in which participants travelled set distances away from an initial starting location (outbound phase), before turning and attempting to walk back to that location (inbound phase). We manipulated whether outbound gait was a walk or a gallop-walk. We also manipulated the outbound availability of optic flow. Inbound reports were performed via walking with eyes closed. Consistent with previous studies of haptic odometry, inbound reports were shorter when the outbound gait was a gallop-walk. We showed that the availability of optic flow decreased this effect. In contrast, the availability of optic flow did not have an observable effect when the outbound gait was walking. We interpreted this to suggest that visual odometry and haptic odometry via walking are similarly calibrated. By measuring the decrease in shortening in the gallop-walk condition, and scaling it relative to the walk condition, we estimated a relative contribution of optic flow to odometry of 41%. Our results present a proof of concept for a new, potentially more generalizable, method for examining the contributions of different perceptual systems to odometry, and by extension, path integration. We discuss implications for understanding human wayfinding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1316
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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