Role of visual information during stair locomotion
Silva, Veronica Miyasike da
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Vision provides relevant information for safe locomotion in a variety of environments. During stair locomotion visual information may be important to detect step boundaries, transitions between ground level and stairs, handrail location, and potential hazards. Although there is a large body of literature on the role of vision during locomotion there is relatively little focused on how visual information is used during stair walking. Stairs are related to a significant number of accidents in daily living, and many of these accidents are attributed to visual factors. Therefore, understanding the role of vision during stair walking could provide insight into the mechanisms involved in stair accidents. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the properties of the visual input used to guide locomotion on stairs. Study 1 was design to describe the gaze patterns during stair locomotion with a specific focus on transitions and handrails. Study 2 investigated the effects of performing concurrent visual and non-visual tasks on walking performance and associated gaze behaviour during stair ascent. Study 3 explored the role of peripheral visual information during visual and non-visual dual tasking. Finally, Study 4 investigated the effects of restricting the lower peripheral visual field to walk on stairs. Studies relied on the measurement in health young adults of: gaze behaviour using an eye tracker, temporal characteristics of walking using foot switches, and reaction time and errors of dual task performance. Overall, the findings of these studies highlight the importance of the lower visual field in guiding stair locomotion and the specific importance for stair transitions. Moreover, foveal vision is not specifically critical to detecting handrails or steps. Results are interpreted in the light of the specialization of the dorsal ventral stream in processing peripheral visual field information. Findings of this thesis provide basic understanding on the role of vision for stair navigation with potential applications in stair-related accident prevention programs and stair design.