Research Note

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 129, Issue 4, pp 629-634

First online:

Online steering: coordination and control of body center of mass, head and body reorientation

  • A. E. PatlaAffiliated withNeural Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada e-mail: patla@healthy.uwaterloo.ca Tel: +1 519 885 1211 ext. 3535; Fax: +1 519 746 6776
  • , A. AdkinAffiliated withNeural Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada e-mail: patla@healthy.uwaterloo.ca Tel: +1 519 885 1211 ext. 3535; Fax: +1 519 746 6776
  • , T. BallardAffiliated withNeural Control Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada e-mail: patla@healthy.uwaterloo.ca Tel: +1 519 885 1211 ext. 3535; Fax: +1 519 746 6776

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Abstract 

Steering is an integral component of adaptive locomotor behavior. Along with reorientation of gaze and body in the direction of intended travel, body center of mass must be controlled in the mediolateral plane. In this study we examine how these subtasks are sequenced when steering is planned early or initiated under time constraints. Whole body kinematics were monitored as individuals were required to change their direction of travel by varying amounts when visually cued either at the beginning of the walk or one stride before. The analyses focused on the transition stride from one travel direction to another. Timing of changes (with respect to first right foot contact) in trunk roll angle, head and trunk yaw angle, and right foot displacement in the mediolateral plane were analyzed. The magnitude of these measures along with right and left foot placement at the beginning and right foot placement at the end of the transition stride were also analyzed. The results show the CNS uses two mechanisms, foot placement and trunk roll motion (piking action about the hip joint in the frontal plane), to move the center of mass towards the new direction of travel in the transition stride, preferring to use the first option when planning can be done early. Control of body center of mass precedes all other changes and is followed by initiation of head reorientation. Only then is the rest of the body reorientation initiated.

Key words Steering control Human locomotion Center of mass Head orientation Body orientation