Human movements do not look the same in a tilted world: Gravitational constraints influence the perception of biological motion.

Pavlidou, Anastasia; Lange, Joachim; Ferrè, Elisa Raffaella (2022). Human movements do not look the same in a tilted world: Gravitational constraints influence the perception of biological motion. European journal of neuroscience, 55(3), pp. 800-805. Wiley 10.1111/ejn.15586

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We investigated whether gravitational constraints influence the interaction of visual, proprioceptive and vestibular cues for Biological Motion Perception (BMP). Participants were asked to distinguish between plausible and random point-light movements, while passively placed in either an upright or a tilted body orientation. Manipulating the body orientation with respect to gravity leads to different gravitational signals transmitted by the visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular systems. Participants were overall faster in distinguishing plausible point-light movements than random movements. Critically, response times for biologically plausible point-light movements - but not for random movements - were significantly prolonged in the tilted body orientation. Our results suggest that BMP depends not only on the spatial-temporal cues embedded in point-light movements but also rely on the congruency between current gravitational signals detected by the sensory systems and our previous knowledge of terrestrial gravity. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: As humankind is preparing for a new space age, understanding how gravity influences behaviour and cognition has never been more pressing. All living organisms have evolved to survive in a terrestrial gravitational field. Although we cannot consciously feel gravity, it has an impact in our life: it affects how we move and interact with the external environment. The sensory signals from the vestibular system are continuously combined with visual and proprioceptive cues to help us in maintaining a stable representation of the world. Here we placed participants in a tilted body orientation and were able to determine that a conflict between prior gravitational knowledge and what was actively sensed about gravity affected human Biological Movement Perception. Humans suffer changes in perception under non-terrestrial gravity conditions that may potentially compromise performance during space exploration.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center

UniBE Contributor:

Pavlidou, Anastasia


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Sebastian Walther

Date Deposited:

23 May 2022 12:38

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:20

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

biological motion gravity multisensory integration point-light-display vestibular system




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