Visuomotor error augmentation affects mediolateral head and trunk stabilization during walking
Mu Qiao, Jackson T. Richards, and Jason R. Franz
Abstract. Prior work demonstrates that humans spontaneously synchronize their head and trunk kinematics to a broad range of driving frequencies of perceived mediolateral motion prescribed using optical flow. Using a closed-loop visuomotor error augmentation task in an immersive virtual environment, we sought to understand whether unifying visual with vestibular and somatosensory feedback is a control goal during human walking, at least in the context of head and trunk stabilization. We hypothesized that humans would minimize visual errors during walking – i.e., those between the visual perception of movement and actual movement of the trunk. We found that subjects did not minimize errors between the visual perception of movement and actual movement of the head and trunk. Rather, subjects increased mediolateral trunk range of motion in response to error-augmented optical flow with positive feedback gains. Our results are more consistent with our alternative hypothesis – that visual feedback can override other sensory modalities and independently compel adjustments in head and trunk position. Also, aftereffects following exposure to error-augmented optical flow included longer, narrower steps and reduced mediolateral postural sway, particularly in response to larger amplitude positive feedback gains. Our results allude to a recalibration of head and trunk stabilization toward more tightly regulated postural control following exposure to error-augmented visual feedback. Lasting reductions in mediolateral postural sway may have implications for using error-augmented optical flow to enhance the integrity of walking balance control through training, for example in older adults.