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A Case Study of Human Roll Tilt Perception in Hypogravity

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BACKGROUND: Increased gravito-inertial acceleration, or hypergravity, such as produced in a centrifuge or in an aircraft coordinated turn, causes humans to systematically overestimate their roll tilt in the dark. This is known as the “G-excess” illusion. We have previously modified a mathematical observer model of dynamic orientation perception to replicate these illusory tilt perceptions. This modified model also made a novel, previously untested, prediction that humans would underestimate acute roll tilt in reduced gravitational environments (hypogravity).

CASE REPORT: In the current study, we used aircraft parabolic flight to test this prediction in a single subject. Roll tilt perception was reported using a subjective visual vertical task in which the subject aligned an illuminated line, presented in a head mounted display, with their perceived direction of down. The same subject made reports during hypogravity parabolas (0.165 G and 0.38 G, corresponding to lunar and Martian gravity, respectively), hypergravity maneuvers (1.6 G during a pull out maneuver and 1.2 G during a coordinated turn), and 1-G control conditions (both on the ground and in straight and level flight). As hypothesized, the subject significantly underestimated roll tilt in the hypogravity environments by approximately 40% compared to 1-G reports while overestimating roll tilt in the hypergravity environments.

DISCUSSION: The amount of underestimation observed was quantitatively consistent with that predicted a priori by the modified observer model. We propose the term “G-shortage” illusion for the underestimation of roll tilt in hypogravity. This illusion may have implications for aircraft pilots and astronauts.

Clark TK, Young LR. A case study of human roll tilt perception in hypogravity. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(7):682–687.
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Keywords: observer model; orientation perception; otolith; parabolic flight; spatial disorientation; vestibular

Document Type: Case Report

Publication date: 01 July 2017

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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