Imagined self-motion differs from perceived self-motion: Evidence from a novel continuous pointing method

Jennifer L. Campos, Joshua H. Siegle, Betty J. Mohler, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Jack M. Loomis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The extent to which actual movements and imagined movements maintain a shared internal representation has been a matter of much scientific debate. Of the studies examining such questions, few have directly compared actual full-body movements to imagined movements through space. Here we used a novel continuous pointing method to a) provide a more detailed characterization of self-motion perception during actual walking and b) compare the pattern of responding during actual walking to that which occurs during imagined walking. Methodology/Principal Findings: This continuous pointing method requires participants to view a target and continuously point towards it as they walk, or imagine walking past it along a straight, forward trajectory. By measuring changes in the pointing direction of the arm, we were able to determine participants' perceived/imagined location at each moment during the trajectory and, hence, perceived/imagined self-velocity during the entire movement. The specific pattern of pointing behaviour that was revealed during sighted walking was also observed during blind walking. Specifically, a peak in arm azimuth velocity was observed upon target passage and a strong correlation was observed between arm azimuth velocity and pointing elevation. Importantly, this characteristic pattern of pointing was not consistently observed during imagined self-motion. Conclusions/Significance: Overall, the spatial updating processes that occur during actual self-motion were not evidenced during imagined movement. Because of the rich description of self-motion perception afforded by continuous pointing, this method is expected to have significant implications for several research areas, including those related to motor imagery and spatial cognition and to applied fields for which mental practice techniques are common (e.g. rehabilitation and athletics).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7793
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Nov 11

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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