Persistent perceptual delay for head movement onset relative to auditory stimuli of different durations and rise times

Michael Barnett-Cowan, Sophie M. Raeder, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The perception of simultaneity between auditory and vestibular information is crucially important for maintaining a coherent representation of the acoustic environment whenever the head moves. It has been recently reported, however, that despite having similar transduction latencies, vestibular stimuli are perceived significantly later than auditory stimuli when simultaneously generated. This suggests that perceptual latency of a head movement is longer than a co-occurring sound. However, these studies paired a vestibular stimulation of long duration (~1 s) and of a continuously changing temporal envelope with a brief (10-50 ms) sound pulse. In the present study, the stimuli were matched for temporal envelope duration and shape. Participants judged the temporal order of the two stimuli, the onset of an active head movement and the onset of brief (50 ms) or long (1,400 ms) sounds with a square- or raised-cosine-shaped envelope. Consistent with previous reports, head movement onset had to precede the onset of a brief sound by about 73 ms in order for the stimuli to be perceived as simultaneous. Head movements paired with long square sounds (~100 ms) were not significantly different than brief sounds. Surprisingly, head movements paired with long raised-cosine sound (~115 ms) had to be presented even earlier than brief stimuli. This additional lead time could not be accounted for by differences in the comparison stimulus characteristics (temporal envelope duration and shape). Rather, differences between sound conditions were found to be attributable to variability in the time for head movement to reach peak velocity: the head moved faster when paired with a brief sound. The persistent lead time required for vestibular stimulation provides further evidence that the perceptual latency of vestibular stimulation is greater than the other senses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We gratefully thank Massimiliano Di Luca for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. MB-C and SMR were supported by funds from the Max Planck Society. Additional support for HHB came from the WCU (World Class University) program funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through the National Research Foundation of Korea (R31-10008).


  • Auditory
  • Duration
  • Head movement
  • Multisensory
  • Subjective simultaneity
  • Temporal order judgment
  • Time perception
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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