Visual flow influences gait transition speed and preferred walking speed


It is typically assumed that basic features of human gait are determined by purely biomechanical factors. In two experiments, we test whether gait transition speed and preferred walking speed are also influenced by visual information about the speed of self-motion. The visual flow during treadmill locomotion was manipulated to be slower than, matched to, or faster than the physical gait speed (visual gains of 0.5, 1.0, 2.0). Higher flow rates elicit significantly lower transition speeds for both the Walk–Run and Run–Walk transition, as expected. Similarly, higher flow rates elicit significantly lower preferred walking speeds. These results suggest that visual information becomes calibrated to mechanical or energetic aspects of gait and contributes to the control of locomotor behavior.

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  1. 1.

    We use the more general term visual flow to refer to visual information for self-motion, not just the 2D changes in the optic array denoted by the term optic flow. The rate of visual flow refers to the speed of forward motion consistent with the time-varying image that is seen. Note that this is a characterization of the stimulus, not a perceptual property. See Mohler et al. (in press) for more detailed discussion and experimental manipulation on this topic.

  2. 2.

    There is no optimal speed in running or galloping, for energetic efficiency remains approximately constant over speed (Margaria et al. 1963; Full 1989; Kram and Taylor 1990).


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Correspondence to Betty J. Mohler.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant 0121084.

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Mohler, B.J., Thompson, W.B., Creem-Regehr, S.H. et al. Visual flow influences gait transition speed and preferred walking speed. Exp Brain Res 181, 221–228 (2007).

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  • Walking Speed
  • Transition Speed
  • Visual Gain
  • Slow Condition
  • Belt Speed