Send to

Choose Destination
Exp Brain Res. 2006 Oct;175(1):21-31. Epub 2006 Jun 8.

Characteristics of single and double obstacle avoidance strategies: a comparison between adults and children.

Author information

School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Activities of daily living often require us to negotiate several obstacles in the travel path. To date, there is little work investigating how adults accomplish such tasks, and there is even less known about multiple obstacle avoidance strategies used by children. The current work will expand our knowledge about the role of vision in adults and children when avoiding two obstacles placed in their travel path under altered ambient lighting. Healthy 7-year old children (n=10; aged 7.51+/-0.2 years) and adults (n=10; aged 22.76+/-1.7 years) were instrumented with infrared markers (Optotrak, NDI) placed on anatomical landmarks and asked to walk along a ten meter path under three conditions: unobstructed, single obstacle, or double obstacle. These trials were performed under two lighting conditions: Full (simulating standard office lighting) and Low (simulating a dark hallway lit by nightlights). Data analyses included lead and trail clearance values, step length, step width and step velocity, take-off distance and Horizontal toe Displacement at Apex (HDA) which was defined as the distance between the horizontal position of the toe to the leading edge of the obstacle when the toe reaches its peak height. Adults were able to maintain consistent behaviour regardless of the number of obstacles in the travel path. Children, however, adjusted their foot placement for the second obstacle. This indicates that having multiple obstacles in the travel path is a more challenging task for 7-year old, and suggests that children at this age may not have fully developed anticipatory locomotor strategies. Children had larger clearance values than adults for the lead foot crossing the obstacle under all obstacle and lighting conditions, and consistently used larger HDA values than adults. Together, these findings suggest that children adopt more cautious strategies than adults in complex environments. Additionally, children decreased walking velocity, increased step width and decreased their step length in a Low light environment. These changes are all indicators of a more careful avoidance strategy, which implies that children at this age rely heavily on visual information to guide foot placements in a complex environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center