Perceived size change induced by nonvisual signals in darkness: The relative contribution of vergence and proprioception

Irene Sperandio, Shaleeza Kaderali, Philippe A. Chouinard, Jared Frey, Melvyn A. Goodale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the time, the human visual system computes perceived size by scaling the size of an object on the retina with its perceived distance. There are instances, however, in which size–distance scaling is not based on visual inputs but on extraretinal cues. In the Taylor illusion, the perceived afterimage that is projected on an observer's hand will change in size depending on how far the limb is positioned from the eyes—even in complete darkness. In the dark, distance cues might derive from hand position signals either by an efference copy of the motor command to the moving hand or by proprioceptive input. Alternatively, there have been reports that vergence signals from the eyes might also be important. We performed a series of behavioral and eye-tracking experiments to tease apart how these different sources of distance information contribute to the Taylor illusion. We demonstrate that, with no visual information, perceived size changes mainly as a function of the vergence angle of the eyes, underscoring its importance in size–distance scaling. Interestingly, the strength of this relationship decreased when a mismatch between vergence and proprioception was introduced, indicating that proprioceptive feedback from the arm also affected size perception. By using afterimages, we provide strong evidence that the human visual system can benefit from sensory signals that originate from the hand when visual information about distance is unavailable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16915-16923
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2013

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