Path Integration in 3D


Switching Spatial Reference Frames for Yaw and Pitch Navigation:

We’re used to nav­i­gat­ing on the ground plane, and have devel­oped spe­cific strate­gies to do so. How do these change if we move in a ver­ti­cal plane (roller-coaster-like, includ­ing head over heels motions)? Can we still main­tain ori­en­ta­tion and remem­ber where we came from, even though such upwards or down­wards (pitch) motions are less common and create a pro­nounced visuo-vestibular cue con­flict if the motion is only visu­ally dis­played (e.g., in Virtual Reality or movies)?

Abstract of recently submitted manuscript

Humans demon­strate pref­er­ences to use ego­cen­tric or allo­cen­tric ref­er­ence frames in nav­i­ga­tion tasks that lack embod­ied (vestibu­lar and/or pro­pri­o­cep­tive) cues. Here, we inves­ti­gated how ref­er­ence frame pro­cliv­i­ties affect spa­tial nav­i­ga­tion in the hor­i­zon­tal versus ver­ti­cal planes. Point-to-origin per­for­mance after visu­ally dis­played ver­ti­cal tra­jec­to­ries was sur­pris­ingly accu­rate and almost matched yaw per­for­mance for both ego­cen­tric and allo­cen­tric strate­gies. For ver­ti­cal direc­tion changes, 39% of par­tic­i­pants unex­pect­edly switched to their non-preferred ref­er­ence frame. This might be explained by ver­ti­cal (25°-90° up/downward pitched) tra­jec­to­ries having lower eco­log­i­cal valid­ity and cre­at­ing pro­nounced visuo-vestibular con­flicts, thus empha­siz­ing indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in pro­cess­ing idio­thetic, embod­ied sen­sory information.


Point-to-origin task for 90deg yaw trial (right turn) in optic flow field

Point-to-origin task for 90deg pitch trial (down­ward motion) in optic flow field


Non-turner point-to-origin task for 90deg yaw trial (right turn) in optic flow field

Non-turner point-to-origin task for 90deg pitch trial (down­ward motion) in optic flow field



Gramann, K., Wing, S., Jung, T.-P., Viirre, E., & Riecke, B. E. (2012). Switching spa­tial ref­er­ence frames for yaw and pitch nav­i­ga­tion. Spatial Cognition and Computation, 12(2–3), 159–194. (Download)
Gramann, K., Riecke, B. E., Wing, S., Jung, T.-P., & Viirre, E. (2010). Brain dynam­ics asso­ci­ated with nav­i­ga­tion in 3-D space [Talk]. Neuroscience 40th Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, USA.