Body-relative horizontal–vertical anisotropy in human representations of traveled distances

Thomas Hinterecker, Paolo Pretto, Ksander N. de Winkel, Hans Otto Karnath, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Tobias Meilinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


A growing number of studies investigated anisotropies in representations of horizontal and vertical spaces. In humans, compelling evidence for such anisotropies exists for representations of multi-floor buildings. In contrast, evidence regarding open spaces is indecisive. Our study aimed at further enhancing the understanding of horizontal and vertical spatial representations in open spaces utilizing a simple traveled distance estimation paradigm. Blindfolded participants were moved along various directions in the sagittal plane. Subsequently, participants passively reproduced the traveled distance from memory. Participants performed this task in an upright and in a 30° backward-pitch orientation. The accuracy of distance estimates in the upright orientation showed a horizontal–vertical anisotropy, with higher accuracy along the horizontal axis compared with the vertical axis. The backward-pitch orientation enabled us to investigate whether this anisotropy was body or earth-centered. The accuracy patterns of the upright condition were positively correlated with the body-relative (not the earth-relative) coordinate mapping of the backward-pitch condition, suggesting a body-centered anisotropy. Overall, this is consistent with findings on motion perception. It suggests that the distance estimation sub-process of path integration is subject to horizontal–vertical anisotropy. Based on the previous studies that showed isotropy in open spaces, we speculate that real physical self-movements or categorical versus isometric encoding are crucial factors for (an)isotropies in spatial representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2811-2827
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Oct 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).


  • Anisotropy
  • Body-centered
  • Horizontal
  • Motion simulator
  • Traveled distances
  • Vertical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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