Direction detection thresholds of passive self-motion in artistic gymnasts

Hartmann, Matthias ; Haller, Katia ; Moser, Ivan ; Hossner, Ernst-Joachim ; Mast, Fred

In: Experimental Brain Research, 2014, vol. 232, no. 4, p. 1249-1258

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    In this study, we compared direction detection thresholds of passive self-motion in the dark between artistic gymnasts and controls. Twenty-four professional female artistic gymnasts (ranging from 7 to 20years) and age-matched controls were seated on a motion platform and asked to discriminate the direction of angular (yaw, pitch, roll) and linear (leftward-rightward) motion. Gymnasts showed lower thresholds for the linear leftward-rightward motion. Interestingly, there was no difference for the angular motions. These results show that the outstanding self-motion abilities in artistic gymnasts are not related to an overall higher sensitivity in self-motion perception. With respect to vestibular processing, our results suggest that gymnastic expertise is exclusively linked to superior interpretation of otolith signals when no change in canal signals is present. In addition, thresholds were overall lower for the older (14-20years) than for the younger (7-13years) participants, indicating the maturation of vestibular sensitivity from childhood to adolescence.