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Karl Kopiske, Daniel Koska, Thomas Baumann, Christian Maiwald, Wolfgang Einhäuser; Icy road ahead—rapid adjustments of gaze–gait interactions during perturbed naturalistic walking. Journal of Vision 2021;21(8):11. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.8.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Most humans can walk effortlessly across uniform terrain even when they do not pay much attention to it. However, most natural terrain is far from uniform, and we need visual information to maintain stable gait. Recent advances in mobile eye-tracking technology have made it possible to study, in natural environments, how terrain affects gaze and thus the sampling of visual information. However, natural environments provide only limited experimental control, and some conditions cannot safely be tested. Typical laboratory setups, in contrast, are far from natural settings for walking. We used a setup consisting of a dual-belt treadmill, 240\(^\circ\) projection screen, floor projection, three-dimensional optical motion tracking, and mobile eye tracking to investigate eye, head, and body movements during perturbed and unperturbed walking in a controlled yet naturalistic environment. In two experiments (N = 22 each), we simulated terrain difficulty by repeatedly inducing slipping through accelerating either of the two belts rapidly and unpredictably (Experiment 1) or sometimes following visual cues (Experiment 2). We quantified the distinct roles of eye and head movements for adjusting gaze on different time scales. While motor perturbations mainly influenced head movements, eye movements were primarily affected by the presence of visual cues. This was true both immediately following slips and—to a lesser extent—over the course of entire 5-min blocks. We find adapted gaze parameters already after the first perturbation in each block, with little transfer between blocks. In conclusion, gaze–gait interactions in experimentally perturbed yet naturalistic walking are adaptive, flexible, and effector specific.
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