Haptic cues for orientation and postural control in sighted and blind individuals

Percept Psychophys. 1996 Apr;58(3):409-23. doi: 10.3758/bf03206817.


Haptic cues from fingertip contact with a stable surface attenuate body sway in subjects even when the contact forces are too small to provide physical support of the body. We investigated how haptic cues derived from contact of a cane with a stationary surface at low force levels aids postural control in sighted and congenitally blind individuals. Five sighted (eyes closed) and five congenitally blind subjects maintained a tandem Romberg stance in five conditions: (1) no cane; (2,3) touch contact (< 2 N of applied force) while holding the cane in a vertical or slanted orientation; and (4,5) force contact (as much force as desired) in the vertical and slanted orientations. Touch contact of a cane at force levels below those necessary to provide significant physical stabilization was as effective as force contact in reducing postural sway in all subjects, compared to the no-cane condition. A slanted cane was far more effective in reducing postural sway than was a perpendicular cane. Cane use also decreased head displacement of sighted subjects far more than that of blind subjects. These results suggest that head movement control is linked to postural control through gaze stabilization reflexes in sighted subjects; such reflexes are absent in congenitally blind individuals and may account for their higher levels of head displacement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blindness / congenital
  • Blindness / psychology*
  • Blindness / rehabilitation
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture*
  • Proprioception
  • Sensory Aids
  • Touch*
  • Weight-Bearing