• Obstacle crossing during locomotion: Visual exproprioceptive information is used in an online mode to update foot placement before the obstacle but not swing trajectory over it

      Timmis, Matthew A.; Buckley, John G. (2012-05)
      Although gaze during adaptive gait involving obstacle crossing is typically directed two or more steps ahead, visual information of the swinging lower-limb and its relative position in the environment (termed visual exproprioception) is available in the lower visual field (lvf). This study determined exactly when lvf exproprioceptive information is utilised to control/update lead-limb swing trajectory during obstacle negotiation. 12 young participants negotiated an obstacle wearing smart-glass goggles which unpredictably occluded the lvf for certain periods during obstacle approach and crossing. Trials were also completed with lvf occluded for the entirety of the trial. When lvf was occluded throughout, footplacement distance and toe-clearance became significantly increased; which is consistent with previous work that likewise used continuous lvf occlusion. Both variables were similarly affected by lvf occlusion from instant of penultimate-step contact, but both were unaffected when lvf was occluded from instant of final-step contact. These findings suggest that lvf (exproprioceptive) input is typically used in an online manner to control/update final foot-placement, and that without such control, uncertainty regarding foot placement causes toe-clearance to be increased. Also that lvf input is not normally exploited in an online manner to update toe-clearance during crossing: which is contrary to what previous research has suggested.
    • Use of single-vision distance spectacles improves landing control during step descent in well-adapted multifocal lens-wearers

      Timmis, Matthew A.; Johnson, Louise; Elliott, David B.; Buckley, John G. (2010)
      PURPOSE: Epidemiologic research has shown that multifocal spectacle wearers (bifocal and progressive addition lenses [PALs]) are more than twice as likely to fall than are nonmultifocal spectacle wearers, with this risk further increasing when negotiating stairs. The present study investigated whether step and stair descent safety is improved by using single-vision distance lenses. METHODS: From a stationary standing position on top of a block, 20 long-term multifocal wearers stepped down (from different block heights) onto a lower level wearing bifocal, progressive addition, or single-vision distance lenses. RESULTS: Use of single-vision distance spectacles led to an increased single-limb support time, a reduced ankle and knee angle and vertical center-of-mass velocity at contact with the lower level, and a reduced ankle angular velocity and vertical center-of-mass velocity during initial landing (P < 0.03). These findings indicate that landing occurred in a more controlled manner when the subjects wore single-vision distance spectacles, rather than tending to "drop" onto the lower level as occurred when wearing bifocals or PALs. CONCLUSIONS: Use of single-vision distance spectacles led to improvements in landing control, consistent with individuals' being more certain regarding the precise height of the lower floor level. This enhanced control was attributed to having a view of the foot, step edge, and immediate floor area that was not blurred, magnified, or doubled and that did not suffer from image jump or peripheral distortions. These findings provide further evidence that use of single-vision distance lenses in everyday locomotion may be advantageous for elderly multifocal wearers who have a high risk of falling.
    • Visuomotor control of step descent: evidence of specialised role of the lower visual field

      Timmis, Matthew A.; Bennett, S.J.; Buckley, John G. (2009-05)
      We often complete step downs in the absence of visual feedback of the lower-limbs, and/or of the area on the ground where we intend to land (e.g. when descending a step whilst carrying a laundry basket). Therefore, the present study examined whether information from lower visual field (lvf) provides any advantage to the control of step descent. Ten healthy subjects (age 24.4 ± 9.4 years) completed repeated step downs over three-step heights with visual information available from either full or upper visual fields (lvf occluded), and for specific intervals relative to step initiation. Visuomotor control of step descent was assessed by determining pre-landing kinematic measures and landing mechanic variables for the initial landing period. Findings indicate that whilst there were only limited effects on pre-landing kinematic measures under lvf occlusion, individual’s ability to plan/control landing mechanics was significantly different in such conditions compared to when they had access to full field vision. These changes were consistent with participants being uncertain regarding precise floor height when access to lvf was restricted, and consequently led them to adapt their landing behaviour but without fundamentally altering their stepping strategy. Compared to when vision was available throughout, the occlusion of vision (full or upper visual field) from toe-off or mid-swing onwards caused very few differences in landing behaviour. This suggests that the contribution of information from lvf to the control of landing behaviour occurs predominantly prior to or during movement initiation and that ‘online’ vision is used only in the latter portion of the descent phase to subtly ‘fine tune’ landings.