Spatial updating and the maintenance of visual constancy

E. M. Klier, D. E. Angelaki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Spatial updating is the means by which we keep track of the locations of objects in space even as we move. Four decades of research have shown that humans and non-human primates can take the amplitude and direction of intervening movements into account, including saccades (both head-fixed and head-free), pursuit, whole-body rotations and translations. At the neuronal level, spatial updating is thought to be maintained by receptive field locations that shift with changes in gaze, and evidence for such shifts has been shown in several cortical areas. These regions receive information about the intervening movement from several sources including motor efference copies when a voluntary movement is made and vestibular/somatosensory signals when the body is in motion. Many of these updating signals arise from brainstem regions that monitor our ongoing movements and subsequently transmit this information to the cortex via pathways that likely include the thalamus. Several issues of debate include (1) the relative contribution of extra-retinal sensory and efference copy signals to spatial updating, (2) the source of an updating signal for real life, three-dimensional motion that cannot arise from brain areas encoding only two-dimensional commands, and (3) the reference frames used by the brain to integrate updating signals from various sources. This review highlights the relevant spatial updating studies and provides a summary of the field today. We find that spatial constancy is maintained by a highly evolved neural mechanism that keeps track of our movements, transmits this information to relevant brain regions, and then uses this information to change the way in which single neurons respond. In this way, we are able to keep track of relevant objects in the outside world and interact with them in meaningful ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-818
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 28 2008


  • efference copy
  • gaze
  • oculomotor
  • pursuit
  • reference frame
  • vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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