Temporal features of size constancy for perception and action in a real-world setting: A combined EEG-kinematics study

Simona Noviello, Saman Kamari Songhorabadi, Zhiqing Deng, Chao Zheng, Juan Chen, Angelo Pisani, Elena Franchin, Enrica Pierotti, Elena Tonolli, Simona Monaco, Louis Renoult, Irene Sperandio

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A stable representation of object size, in spite of continuous variations in retinal input due to changes in viewing distance, is critical for perceiving and acting in a real 3D world. In fact, our perceptual and visuo-motor systems exhibit size and grip constancies in order to compensate for the natural shrinkage of the retinal image with increased distance. The neural basis of this size-distance scaling remains largely unknown, although multiple lines of evidence suggest that size-constancy operations might take place remarkably early, already at the level of the primary visual cortex. In this study, we examined for the first time the temporal dynamics of size constancy during perception and action by using a combined measurement of event-related potentials (ERPs) and kinematics. Participants were asked to maintain their gaze steadily on a fixation point and perform either a manual estimation or a grasping task towards disks of different sizes placed at different distances. Importantly, the physical size of the target was scaled with distance to yield a constant retinal angle. Meanwhile, we recorded EEG data from 64 scalp electrodes and hand movements with a motion capture system. We focused on the first positive-going visual evoked component peaking at approximately 90 ms after stimulus onset. We found earlier latencies and greater amplitudes in response to bigger than smaller disks of matched retinal size, regardless of the task. In line with the ERP results, manual estimates and peak grip apertures were larger for the bigger targets. We also found task-related differences at later stages of processing from a cluster of central electrodes, whereby the mean amplitude of the P2 component was greater for manual estimation than grasping. Taken together, these findings provide novel evidence that size constancy for real objects at real distances occurs at the earliest cortical stages and that early visual processing does not change as a function of task demands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108746
Early online date9 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2024


  • size constancy
  • perception and action
  • retinal size
  • perceived size
  • EEG
  • kinematics

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