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Gaze strategies for avoiding obstacles: Differences between young and elderly subjects


Keller Chandra, S; Bockisch, C J; Dietz, V; Hegemann, S C A; Straumann, D; van Hedel, H J A (2011). Gaze strategies for avoiding obstacles: Differences between young and elderly subjects. Gait & Posture, 34(3):340-346.

Abstract

Visual input is highly relevant for safely stepping over obstacles. In this study, gaze-behaviour was investigated in elderly, middle-aged and young subjects as they walked on a treadmill repeatedly stepping over obstacles, which approached either on the right or left side. In between obstacle-steps, subjects visually fixated a target N or F located two or four steps ahead on the floor, respectively. An acoustic warning signal announced the obstacles, after which subjects were free to look wherever they wanted. Gaze-movements were measured by video-oculography. Four conditions with 20 obstacles were conducted (two with target N, two with target F). In two conditions, high-precision stepping was investigated by asking subjects to step with minimal foot-clearance over the obstacles, while receiving acoustic feedback about their performance. In the high-precision conditions, more subjects (target N: 70%, F: 81%) turned their gaze on the obstacles and for a longer time than in unrestricted conditions. When fixating on the near target N and unrestricted stepping over the obstacles, significantly more elderly subjects (85%) turned their gaze on the obstacle compared to middle-aged (17%) and young subjects (29%). The elderly turned their gaze earlier and longer on the obstacle than middle-aged or young subjects. Our results reveal a different gaze-behaviour strategy of elderly subjects suggesting a greater dependency on visual inputs.

Visual input is highly relevant for safely stepping over obstacles. In this study, gaze-behaviour was investigated in elderly, middle-aged and young subjects as they walked on a treadmill repeatedly stepping over obstacles, which approached either on the right or left side. In between obstacle-steps, subjects visually fixated a target N or F located two or four steps ahead on the floor, respectively. An acoustic warning signal announced the obstacles, after which subjects were free to look wherever they wanted. Gaze-movements were measured by video-oculography. Four conditions with 20 obstacles were conducted (two with target N, two with target F). In two conditions, high-precision stepping was investigated by asking subjects to step with minimal foot-clearance over the obstacles, while receiving acoustic feedback about their performance. In the high-precision conditions, more subjects (target N: 70%, F: 81%) turned their gaze on the obstacles and for a longer time than in unrestricted conditions. When fixating on the near target N and unrestricted stepping over the obstacles, significantly more elderly subjects (85%) turned their gaze on the obstacle compared to middle-aged (17%) and young subjects (29%). The elderly turned their gaze earlier and longer on the obstacle than middle-aged or young subjects. Our results reveal a different gaze-behaviour strategy of elderly subjects suggesting a greater dependency on visual inputs.

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3 citations in Web of Science®
5 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Ophthalmology Clinic
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Children's Hospital Zurich > Medical Clinic
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Otorhinolaryngology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:12 Jul 2011 13:31
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:57
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0966-6362
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.05.022
PubMed ID:21696959
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-48651

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