Guidance of locomotion on foot uses perceived target location rather than optic flow

Author(s): Rushton SK, Harris JM, Lloyd MR, Wann JP


What visual information do we use to guide movement through our environment? Self-movement produces a pattern of motion on the retina, called optic flow. During translation, the direction of movement (locomotor direction) is specified by the point in the flow field from which the motion vectors radiate - the focus of expansion (FoE) [1-3]. If an eye movement is made, however, the FoE no longer specifies locomotor direction [4], but the 'heading' direction can still be judged accurately [5]. Models have been proposed that remove confounding rotational motion due to eye movements by decomposing the retinal flow into its separable translational and rotational components ([6-7] are early examples). An alternative theory is based upon the use of invariants in the retinal flow field [8]. The assumption underpinning all these models (see also [9-11]), and associated psychophysical [5,12,13] and neurophysiological studies [14-16], is that locomotive heading is guided by optic flow. In this paper we challenge that assumption for the control of direction of locomotion on foot. Here we have explored the role of perceived location by recording the walking trajectories of people wearing displacing prism glasses. The results suggest that perceived location, rather than optic or retinal flow, is the predominant cue that guides locomotion on foot.

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