Falls during walking are a major contributor to accidental deaths and injuries that can result in debilitating hospitalization costs, lost productivity, and diminished quality of life. To reduce these losses, we must develop a more profound understanding of the characteristic responses to perturbations similar to those encountered in daily life. This study addresses this issue by building on our earlier studies that examined mechanical and visual perturbations in the same environment by applying the same continuous pseudo-random perturbations at multiple (3 mechanical, 5 visual) amplitudes. Walking variability during mechanical perturbations increased significantly with amplitude for all subjects and differences as measured by variabilities of step width, COM position, and COM velocity. These parameters were the only ones sensitive to the presence of visual perturbations, but none of them changed significantly with perturbation amplitude. Additionally, visual perturbation effects were far less consistent across participants, with several who were essentially unaffected by visual perturbations at any level. The homogeneity of the mechanical perturbation effects demonstrates that human responses to mechanical perturbations are similar because they are driven by kinetics that require similar corrections that must be made in order to maintain balance. Conversely, responses to visual perturbations are driven by the perceived need to make corrections and this perception is not accurate enough to produce amplitude-related corrections, even for a single participant, nor is this perception consistent across individuals. This latter finding is likely to be relevant to future visual perturbation studies and the diagnosis and rehabilitation of gait and balance disorders.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering