• When is visual information used to control locomotion when descending a kerb?

      Buckley, John G.; Timmis, Matthew A.; Scally, Andy J.; Elliott, David B. (2011)
      Background: Descending kerbs during locomotion involves the regulation of appropriate foot placement before the kerb-edge and foot clearance over it. It also involves the modulation of gait output to ensure the body-mass is safely and smoothly lowered to the new level. Previous research has shown that vision is used in such adaptive gait tasks for feedforward planning, with vision from the lower visual field (lvf) used for online updating. The present study determined when lvf information is used to control/update locomotion when stepping from a kerb. Methodology/Principal Findings: 12 young adults stepped down a kerb during ongoing gait. Force sensitive resistors (attached to participants' feet) interfaced with an high-speed PDLC 'smart glass' sheet, allowed the lvf to be unpredictably occluded at either heel-contact of the penultimate or final step before the kerb-edge up to contact with the lower level. Analysis focussed on determining changes in foot placement distance before the kerb-edge, clearance over it, and in kinematic measures of the step down. Lvf occlusion from the instant of final step contact had no significant effect on any dependant variable (p>0.09). Occlusion of the lvf from the instant of penultimate step contact had a significant effect on foot clearance and on several kinematic measures, with findings consistent with participants becoming uncertain regarding relative horizontal location of the kerb-edge. Conclusion/Significance: These findings suggest concurrent feedback of the lower limb, kerb-edge, and/or floor area immediately in front/below the kerb is not used when stepping from a kerb during ongoing gait. Instead heel-clearance and pre-landing-kinematic parameters are determined/planned using lvf information acquired in the penultimate step during the approach to the kerb-edge, with information related to foot placement before the kerb-edge being the most salient.