Modulation of walking speed by changing optic flow in persons with stroke

Author(s): Lamontagne A, Fung J, McFadyen B, Faubert J


Background:Stroke patients manifest steering difficulties during walking, which may arise from an altered perception of visual motion.

Objective:To examine the ability of stroke patients to control their heading direction while walking in a virtual environment (VE) describing translational optic flows (OFs) expanding from different directions.

Methods:The authors evaluated 10 stroke patients and 11 healthy people while they were walking overground and visualizing a VE in a helmet-mounted display. Participants were instructed to walk straight in the VE and were randomly exposed to an OF having a focus of expansion (FOE) located in 5 possible locations (0 degrees, +/-20 degrees, and +/-40 degrees to the right or left). The body's center of mass (CoM) trajectory, heading direction, and horizontal body reorientation were recorded with a Vicon-512 system.

Results:Healthy participants veered opposite to the FOE location in the physical world, with larger deviations occurring at the most eccentric FOE locations. Stroke patients displayed altered steering behaviors characterized either by an absence of CoM trajectory corrections, multiple errors in the heading direction, or systematic veering to the nonparetic side. Both groups displayed relatively small CoM trajectory corrections that led to large virtual heading errors.

Conclusions:The control of heading of locomotion in response to different OF directions is affected by stroke. An altered perception of heading direction and/or a poor integration of sensory and motor information are likely causes. This altered response to OF direction while walking may contribute to steering difficulties after stroke.

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