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Optom Vis Sci. 1998 Dec;75(12):879-86.

Mental effort required for walking: effects of retinitis pigmentosa.

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  • 1Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To determine whether retinitis pigmentosa (RP) increases the mental effort required for walking.


A dual-task methodology was used; walking speed and reaction time (RT) to randomly emitted tones were measured in 13 persons with RP and 29 persons with normal vision. Measures of RT were used to estimate the mental effort required for walking. In a second experiment, 15 persons with RP and 17 persons with normal vision navigated a "simple" and a "complex" route.


The RP subjects had longer RT compared with the normal-vision subjects when walking the complex but not the simple route. Normalized to each person's baseline, RT while walking the complex route was significantly correlated with log contrast sensitivity (r = -0.63) and log retinal area (r = -0.64) in the RP group. The amount of mental effort required for walking was shown to also depend on familiarity with the route.


Route complexity is critical in determining whether walking requires more mental effort for persons with RP than for persons with normal vision. The magnitude of mental effort required for mobility covaries with the visual impairment measures which correlate with mobility performance in RP.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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