Influence of visual information on optimal obstacle crossing
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Human motion seems to be guided by some optimal principles. In general, it is assumed that human walking is generated with minimal energy consumption. However, in the presence of disturbances during gait, there is a trade-off between stability (avoiding a fall) and energy-consumption. This work analyses the obstacle-crossing with the leading foot. It was hypothesized that energy-saving mechanisms during obstacle-crossing are modulated by the requirement to avoid a fall using the available sensory information, particularly, by vision. A total of fourteen subjects, seven with no visual impairment and seven blind, walked along a 5 meter flat pathway with an obstacle of 0.26 m height located at 3 m from the starting point. The seven subjects with normal vision crossed the obstacle successfully 30 times in two conditions: blindfolded and with normal vision. The seven blind subjects did the same 30 times. The motion of the leading limb was recorded by video at 60 Hz. There were markers placed on the subject's hip, knee, ankle, rear foot, and forefoot. The motion data were filtered with a fourth order Butterworth filter with a cut-off frequency of 4 Hz. The following variables were calculated: horizontal distance between the leading foot and the obstacle at toe-off prior to (DHPO) and after (DHOP) crossing, minimal vertical height from the foot to the obstacle (DVPO), average step velocity (VELOm). The segmental energies were also calculated and the work consumed by the leading limb during the crossing obstacle was computed for each trial. A statistical analysis repeated-measures ANOVA was conducted on these dependent variables revealing significant differences between the vision and non-vision conditions in healthy subjects. In addition, there were no significant differences between the blind and people with vision blindfolded. These results indicate that vision is crucial to determine the optimal trade-off between energy consumption and avoiding a trip during obstacle crossing.