Visual control of action in step descent.
Cowie D., Braddick O., Atkinson J.
Visual guidance of forwards, sideways, and upwards stepping has been investigated, but there is little knowledge about the visuomotor processes underlying stepping down actions. In this study we investigated the visual control of a single vertical step. We measured which aspects of the stepping down movement scaled with visual information about step height, and how this visual control varied with binocular versus monocular vision. Subjects stepped down a single step of variable and unpredictable height. Several kinematic measures were extracted including a new measure, "kneedrop". This describes a transition in the movement of the lower leg, which occurs at a point proportional to step height. In a within-subjects design, measurements were made with either full vision, monocular vision, or no vision. Subjects scaled kneedrop relative to step height with vision, but this scaling was significantly impaired in monocular and no vision conditions. The study establishes a kinematic marker of visually controlled scaling in single-step locomotion which will allow further study of the visuomotor control processes involved in stepping down.