Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Peripheral vestibular organs feed the central nervous system with inputs favoring the correct perception of space during head and body motion. Applying temporal order judgments (TOJs) to pairs of simultaneous or asynchronous stimuli presented in the left and right egocentric space, we evaluated the influence of leftward and rightward vestibular rotatory accelerations given around the vertical head-body axis on covert attentional orienting. In a first experiment, we presented visual stimuli in the left and right hemifield. In a second experiment, tactile stimuli were presented to hands lying on their anatomical side or in a crossed position across the sagittal body midline. In both experiments, stimuli were presented while normal subjects suppressed or did not suppress the vestibulo-ocular response (VOR) evoked by head-body rotation. Independently of VOR suppression, visual and tactile stimuli presented on the side of rotation were judged to precede simultaneous stimuli presented on the side opposite the rotation. When limbs were crossed, attentional facilitatory effects were only observed for stimuli presented to the right hand lying in the left hemispace during leftward rotatory trials with VOR suppression. This result points to spatiotopic rather than somatotopic influences of vestibular inputs, suggesting that cross-modal effects of these inputs on tactile ones operate on a representation of space that is updated following arm crossing. In a third control experiment, we demonstrated that temporal prioritization of stimuli presented on the side of rotation was not determined by response bias linked to spatial compatibility between the directions of rotation and the directional labels used in TOJs (i.e., “left” or “right” first). These findings suggest that during passive rotatory head-body accelerations, covert attention is shifted toward the direction of rotation and the direction of the fast phases of the VOR.