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Effects of approach velocity and foot-target characteristics on the visual regulation of step length
journal contributionposted on 2001-11-01, 00:00 authored by E Bradshaw, W Sparrow
Two questions emerge from the literature concerning the perceptual-motor processes underlying the visual regulation of step length. The first concerns the effects of velocity on the onset of visual control (VCO), when visual regulation of step length begins during goal-directed locomotion. The second concerns the effects of different obstacles such as a target or raised surface on step length regulation. In two separate experiments, participants (Experiment 1 & 2: n=12, 6 female, 6 male) walked, jogged, or sprinted towards an obstacle along a 10 m walkway, consisting of two marker-strips with alternating black and white 0.50 m markings. Each experiment consisted of three targeting or obstacle tasks with the requirement to both negotiate and continue moving (run-through) through the target. Five trials were conducted for each task and approach speed, with trials block randomised between the six participants of each gender. One 50 Hz video camera panned and filmed each trial from an elevated position, adjacent to the walkway. Video footage was digitized to deduce the gait characteristics. Results for the targeting tasks indicate a linear relationship between approach velocity and accuracy of final foot placement (r=0.89). When foot placement was highly constrained by the obstacle step length shortened during the entire approach. VCO was found to occur at an earlier tau-margin for lower approach velocities for both experiments, indicating that the optical variable ‘tau' is affected by approach velocity. A three-phase kinematic profile was found for all tasks, except for the take-off board condition when sprinting. Further research is needed to determine whether this velocity affect on VCO is due to ‘whole-body' approach velocity or whether it is a function of the differences between gait modes.