Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Surprising Complexity of Walking

"Next time someone tells you to watch your step, tell them you already are.

Placing your foot down when walking was thought to be a predetermined process: lift foot, decide where to put it based on what's on the ground, and if nothing moves, land it down on the original target. Scientists thought this procedure requires no immediate visual information once the foot was lifted off the ground.

But a new study has found that continuous visual guidance mechanisms may be needed for accurate foot placement.

"We have demonstrated that vision can be used in an online fashion to fine-tune foot placement during a step," said Raymond Reynolds, of the Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London. "It was previously thought that vision was used to plan the step in advance but not necessarily monitor its ongoing progress.'"

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