When walking on an uneven surface or complex terrain, humans tend to gaze downward. Previous investigations indicate that visual information can be used for online control of stepping. Behavioral investigations suggest that, during walking, the availability of visual information increases stepping accuracy, but probably through a feedforward control mechanism. Consequently, downward gazing (DWG) is usually interpreted as a strategy used to acquire useful information for online and/or feedforward control of stepping.Visual information is not exclusively used for guiding locomotion; a wealth of literature has been published on the usefulness of visual information for feedback postural control. Critically, postural control has been shown to be sensitive to the visual flow arising from the respective motion of the individual and the 3D environment.To investigate whether DWG can be used to enhance feedback control of posture, rather than feedforward/online control of gait, we conducted a series of experiments that explore this possible interplay. Through these experiments we were able to show that DWG, just a few steps ahead, results in a steadier standing and walking posture, without the need for accuracy. Moreover, we were able to demonstrate that humans resort to DWG when walking stability is compromised, even when destabilizing features were visually unpredictable.This series of experiments provides sufficient evidence of the possible interplay between visual information used for guiding locomotion and that used for postural control. Moreover, this evidence raises concerns regarding the way we interpret gaze behavior without the knowledge of the type and use of the information gathered.
|Publisher||Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press|