Society for Neuroscience, Location: Washington D.C.

Publication date: 2011-11


Fiehler, Katja
Beets, Iseult ; 't Hart, Marius ; Henriques, Denise ; Einhäuser, Wolfgang


There is substantial evidence for a bidirectional relationship between the perception and execution of actions. The common coding theory suggests that the final stages of perception and the initial stages of motor control share common representations (Prinz, 1997), which might be implemented in neural structures associated with the mirror neuron system (Rizzolatti & Craighero, 2004). While the effect of visual perception on limb movements has been investigated extensively, little is known about the reversed effect, i.e., the transfer from limb movements to visual perception. We used ambiguous stimuli, which induce alternating perceptual experience, as model to study the effect of concurrent action on motion perception without changing the visual input. Observers watched moving dots that are perceived as a cylinder either rotating clockwise or counterclockwise (perceptual rivalry). In one condition, they reported the perceived direction of motion with a keyboard while moving a manipulandum in an instructed direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). In the other condition, they moved the manipulandum congruently or incongruently to their perceived direction of motion. There was no visual feedback about the performed movement. We find that dominance durations are prolonged for the visual percept when its direction is congruently tracked with the manipulandum compared to incongruent tracking. In contrast, dominance durations do not differ between congruent and incongruent movements when concurrent movements followed an instructed direction. In line with the common coding theory, our findings suggest that limb movements shape visual motion perception. However, this transfer does only occur when the action is dependent on the current percept. Given that people make movements within a continuously changing environment, the fact that only actions that are relevant for the perceived events can influence the perception of these events, is likely the most efficient strategy for human behavior.