Human walking along a curved path. I. Body trajectory, segment orientation and the effect of vision

Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Jul;18(1):177-90. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02736.x.


Task-related characteristics of gait and segment orientation during natural locomotion along a curved path have been described in order to gain insight into the neural organization of walking. The locomotor task implied continuous deviation from straight-ahead, thereby requiring continuous adjustment of body movement to produce and assist turn-related torques. Performance was compared to straight-ahead locomotion. Subjects easily reproduced both trajectories with eyes open (EO). The actual-to-required trajectory difference increased blindfolded (BF), more so during turning. Stride length was unchanged for the outer but decreased for the inner leg. The feet anticipated subsequent body rotation by pivoting toward the inner side of the curve at heel strike. A shift of body centre of mass and trunk roll toward the inner side accompanied turning. The head turned more than dictated by the heading change, and the absolute range of yaw oscillation increased. Head yaw anticipated body yaw by approximately 200 ms. Despite the minor effect of vision on the behaviour of all other segments, a difference in head pitch occurred between EO and BF; with EO, the head was flexed (P < 0.01), as to look at the path, while pitch was negligible with BF. In general, the changes in the amplitude of head, trunk and feet movements proved to be well related to the kinematics of the steering body, and constituted a sort of basic library of motor synergies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Foot / physiology
  • Gait
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*