Subjective visual vertical in erect/supine subjects and under microgravity: Effects of lower body negative pressure

Marco Lucertini, Claudio De Angelis, Marialuisa Martelli, Valfredo Zolesi, Enrico Tomao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perception of the subjective visual vertical (SVV) is mainly based on the contributions from the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems, and participates to the process of spatial orientation in relation to the surrounding environment and to the gravito-inertial force. The SVV can be significantly influenced by the presence of a displaced visual field, as in the case of the rod and frame test (RFT). A series of studies showed the effects of haematic mass shifts to and from the lower limbs on SVV, due to visceral mechanoreceptors (VM) located at the level of the kidneys and of the thorax. These sensors may be artificially activated with a lower body negative pressure (LBNP) device. In this study, the role of visual and VM cues to orientation perception have been evaluated using the RFT and the LBNP devices under a microgravity environment. A preliminary investigation was conducted in a sample of military pilots to develop a RFT protocol to be used in microgravity environments. This protocol was adopted to evaluate the contribution of VM to the SVV in a cosmonaut before, during and after a 10 day space flight, with and without concurrent activation of LBNP. The same test sequence, including LBNP exposure, was repeated a few months later on Earth on the same subject. As expected, the influence of the frame on rod positioning was statistically significant in all test conditions. During the in-flight experimental step, a substantial lack of significant changes compared to the pre-flight condition was observed. Moreover, substantially no effects due to LBNP were observed. A mild rod displacement from the body axis was detected under microgravity compared to the pre-flight recording. Such a finding was in part reduced during LBNP. The same findings were observed during the post-flight repetition of the experiment. Our results showed an absence in this subject of significant effects on the RFT due to microgravity. In conclusion, no effects from his VM on the RFT and minor changes in the SVV could be detected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1075
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Longitudinal body axis
  • Lower body negative pressure
  • Microgravity
  • Posture variations
  • Rod and frame test
  • Subjective visual vertical
  • Weightlessness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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