Visual self-motion cues are impaired yet overweighted during visual-vestibular integration in Parkinson's disease

Sol Yakubovich, Simon Israeli-Korn, Orly Halperin, Gilad Yahalom, Sharon Hassin-Baer, Adam Zaidel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Parkinson's disease is prototypically a movement disorder. Although perceptual and motor functions are highly interdependent, much less is known about perceptual deficits in Parkinson's disease, which are less observable by nature, and might go unnoticed if not tested directly. It is therefore imperative to seek and identify these, to fully understand the challenges facing patients with Parkinson's disease. Also, perceptual deficits may be related to motor symptoms. Posture, gait and balance, affected in Parkinson's disease, rely on veridical perception of one's own motion (self-motion) in space. Yet it is not known whether self-motion perception is impaired in Parkinson's disease. Using a well-established multisensory paradigm of heading discrimination (that has not been previously applied to Parkinson's disease), we tested unisensory visual and vestibular self-motion perception, as well as multisensory integration of visual and vestibular cues, in 19 Parkinson's disease, 23 healthy age-matched and 20 healthy young-adult participants. After experiencing vestibular (on a motion platform), visual (optic flow) or multisensory (combined visual-vestibular) self-motion stimuli at various headings, participants reported whether their perceived heading was to the right or left of straight ahead. Parkinson's disease participants and age-matched controls were tested twice (Parkinson's disease participants on and off medication). Parkinson's disease participants demonstrated significantly impaired visual self-motion perception compared with age-matched controls on both visits, irrespective of medication status. Young controls performed slightly (but not significantly) better than age-matched controls and significantly better than the Parkinson's disease group. The visual self-motion perception impairment in Parkinson's disease correlated significantly with clinical disease severity. By contrast, vestibular performance was unimpaired in Parkinson's disease. Remarkably, despite impaired visual self-motion perception, Parkinson's disease participants significantly overweighted the visual cues during multisensory (visual-vestibular) integration (compared with Bayesian predictions of optimal integration) and significantly more than controls. These findings indicate that self-motion perception in Parkinson's disease is affected by impaired visual cues and by suboptimal visual-vestibular integration (overweighting of visual cues). Notably, vestibular self-motion perception was unimpaired. Thus, visual self-motion perception is specifically impaired in early-stage Parkinson's disease. This can impact Parkinson's disease diagnosis and subtyping. Overweighting of visual cues could reflect a general multisensory integration deficit in Parkinson's disease, or specific overestimation of visual cue reliability. Finally, impaired self-motion perception in Parkinson's disease may contribute to impaired balance and gait control. Future investigation into this connection might open up new avenues of alternative therapies to better treat these difficult symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcaa035
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


This work was supported by grants from the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel (NIPI, 235-17-18) and the Israeli Centers of Research Excellence (I-CORE, Center No. 51/11 to A.Z.).

FundersFunder number
National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel235-17-18
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence51/11


    • Bayesian
    • Parkinson's disease
    • multisensory integration
    • self-motion perception


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