Perception of smooth and perturbed vection in short-duration microgravity
Successful adaptation to the microgravity environment of space and readaptation to gravity on earth requires recalibration of visual and vestibular signals. Recently, we have shown that adding simulated viewpoint oscillation to visual self-motion displays produces more compelling vection (despite the expected increase in visualvestibular conflict experienced by stationary observers). Currently, it is unclear what role adaptation to gravity might play in this oscillation-based vection advantage. The vection elicited by optic flow displays simulating either smooth forward motion or forward motion perturbed by viewpoint oscillation was assessed before, during and after microgravity exposure in parabolic flight. During normal 1-g conditions subjects experienced significantly stronger vection for oscillating compared to smooth radial optic flow. The magnitude of this oscillation enhancement was reduced during short-term microgravity exposure, more so for simulated interaural (as opposed to spinal) axis viewpoint oscillation. We also noted a small overall reduction in vection sensitivity post-flight. A supplementary experiment found that 1-g vection responses did not vary significantly across multiple testing sessions. These findings: (i) demonstrate that the oscillation advantage for vection is very stable and repeatable during 1-g conditions and (ii) imply that adaptation or conditioned responses played a role in the post-flight vection reductions. The effects observed in microgravity are discussed in terms of the ecology of terrestrial locomotion and the nature of movement in microgravity.