Neural integration of information specifying human structure from form, motion, and depth.
Recent computational models of biological motion perception operate on ambiguous two-dimensional representations of the body (e.g., snapshots, posture templates) and contain no explicit means for disambiguating the three-dimensional orientation of a perceived human figure. Are there neural mechanisms in the visual system that represent a moving human figure's orientation in three dimensions? To isolate and characterize the neural mechanisms mediating perception of biological motion, we used an adaptation paradigm together with bistable point-light (PL) animations whose perceived direction of heading fluctuates over time. After exposure to a PL walker with a particular stereoscopically defined heading direction, observers experienced a consistent aftereffect: a bistable PL walker, which could be perceived in the adapted orientation or reversed in depth, was perceived predominantly reversed in depth. A phase-scrambled adaptor produced no aftereffect, yet when adapting and test walkers differed in size or appeared on opposite sides of fixation aftereffects did occur. Thus, this heading direction aftereffect cannot be explained by local, disparity-specific motion adaptation, and the properties of scale and position invariance imply higher-level origins of neural adaptation. Nor is disparity essential for producing adaptation: when suspended on top of a stereoscopically defined, rotating globe, a context-disambiguated "globetrotter" was sufficient to bias the bistable walker's direction, as were full-body adaptors. In sum, these results imply that the neural signals supporting biomotion perception integrate information on the form, motion, and three-dimensional depth orientation of the moving human figure. Models of biomotion perception should incorporate mechanisms to disambiguate depth ambiguities in two-dimensional body representations.