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Exp Brain Res. 2005 Oct;166(2):210-9. Epub 2005 Jul 21.

Exposure to a rotating virtual environment during treadmill locomotion causes adaptation in heading direction.

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Neuroscience Laboratory, Baylor College of Medicine, National Space Biomedical Research Institute, 2101 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058, USA.


The objective of this study was to investigate the adaptive effects of variation in the direction of optic flow, experienced during linear treadmill walking, on modifying locomotor trajectory. Subjects (n=30) walked on a motorized linear treadmill at 4.0 km h(-1) for 24 min while viewing the interior of a 3D virtual scene projected on to a screen 1.5 m in front of them. The virtual scene depicted constant self-motion equivalent to either (1) walking around the perimeter of a room to one's left (Rotating Room group) or (2) walking down the center of a hallway (Infinite Corridor group). The scene was static for the first 4 min and then constant rate self-motion was simulated for the remaining 20 min. Before and after the treadmill locomotion adaptation period subjects performed five stepping trials. In each trial they marched in place to the beat of a metronome at 90 steps min(-1) for a total of 100 steps while blindfolded in a quiet room. The subject's final heading direction (deg) and final X (fore-aft, cm) and final Y (medio-lateral, cm) positions were measured for each trial. During the treadmill locomotion adaptation period subjects' 3D torso position was measured. We found that subjects in the Rotating Room group, as compared with the Infinite Hallway group: (1) showed significantly greater deviation during post-exposure testing in the heading direction and Y position opposite to the direction of optic flow experienced during treadmill walking; and (2) showed a significant monotonically increasing torso yaw angular rotation bias in the direction of optic flow during the treadmill adaptation exposure period. Subjects in both groups showed greater forward translation (in the +X direction) during the post-treadmill stepping task that differed significantly from their pre-exposure performance. Subjects in both groups reported no perceptual deviation in position during the stepping tasks. We infer that viewing simulated rotary self-motion during treadmill locomotion causes adaptive modification of sensorimotor integration in the control of position and trajectory during locomotion, which functionally reflects adaptive changes in the integration of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive cues. Such an adaptation in the control of position and heading direction during locomotion, because of the congruence of sensory information, demonstrates the potential for adaptive transfer between sensorimotor systems and suggests a common neural site for processing and self-motion perception and concurrent adaptation in motor output.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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