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Perception and Action in Accelerating Environments

Final Report Summary - PACE (Perception and Action in Accelerating Environments)

In ERC project “Perception and Action in Accelerating Environments (PACE)” we have studied the impact of vestibular and other sensory information on estimating the state of the world and selecting the right action in accelerating environment. Understanding how sensorimotor acts come about during body motion is also particularly relevant for real-world behavior, such as in sports, car-driving and all kinds of human-human interactions. We have shown how the vestibular system plays a key role in estimating the state of the world and body, in tasks ranging from updating spatial targets to reaching in accelerating environments. Guided by concepts such as optimization, inference, estimation and control, our results show how the brain determines causal relationships between memorized and visual representations in the updating of visual space, and how vestibular, visual and efferent motor information are integrated in the estimation of body motion. We also provide evidence that these computations involve multiple coordinate representations, some of which can be probed in parietal cortex using neuronal oscillations derived from EEG. In addition, we performed work on eye and reach decisions and execution during self-motion, showing a clear modulation by bottom-up acceleration signals for learning and recall. Next to the work in healthy subjects, we applied our paradigms to clinical populations, identifying adaptive mechanisms for perception and action control when sensory systems are distorted. Taken together, the ERC results indicate the importance of investigating the sensorimotor system in rich sensory environments in order to appreciate the sophistication of the estimation and control systems implemented in the brain. The ERC also identifies various future directions for theoretical, behavioral, neurophysiological and clinical investigations.