Cross-modal visuo-haptic mental rotation: Comparing objects between senses

Robert Volcic, Maarten W.A. Wijntjes, Erik C. Kool, Astrid M.L. Kappers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The simple experience of a coherent percept while looking and touching an object conceals an intriguing issue: different senses encode and compare information in different modality-specific reference frames. We addressed this problem in a cross-modal visuo-haptic mental rotation task. Two objects in various orientations were presented at the same spatial location, one visually and one haptically. Participants had to identify the objects as same or different. The relative angle between viewing direction and hand orientation was manipulated (Aligned versus Orthogonal). In an additional condition (Delay), a temporal delay was introduced between haptic and visual explorations while the viewing direction and the hand orientation were orthogonal to each other. Whereas the phase shift of the response time function was close to 0 in the Aligned condition, we observed a consistent phase shift in the hand's direction in the Orthogonal condition. A phase shift, although reduced, was also found in the Delay condition. Counterintuitively, these results mean that seen and touched objects do not need to be physically aligned for optimal performance to occur. The present results suggest that the information about an object is acquired in separate visual and hand-centered reference frames, which directly influence each other and which combine in a timedependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-627
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Cross-modal perception
  • Frames of reference
  • Hand
  • Mental rotation
  • Touch
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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