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Journal Article


Buhler MA, Lamontagne A. IEEE Trans. Neural Syst. Rehabil. Eng. 2018; 26(9): 1813-1822.


(Copyright © 2018, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers))






Virtual environments (VEs) are increasingly used in the context of scientific inquiries and rehabilitation for tasks that are otherwise difficult to control or perform safely in physical environments (PEs), such as avoiding other pedestrians during locomotion. The usefulness of VEs, however, remains constrained by the extent to which they can elicit natural responses. The objectives of the study were to examine circumvention strategies in response to pedestrians approaching from different directions in the VE vs. PE and to determine the effects of repeated practice on the circumvention strategies. Twelve participants were assessed over 5 blocks of 8 trials that consisted of walking towards a target while circumventing pedestrians approaching from different directions (0°, ± 30° right or left or none) in a VE and a PE. Similar onset distances of circumvention strategy and preferred side of circumvention were observed between the two environments. Participants, however, maintained enlarged minimum distances from the interferer (13 %) and walked slower (11.5 %) in the VE. Repeated practice resulted in walking speed increments of 7.4% over the entire session that were similar in the VE vs. PE. While the changes observed in VE may reflect the use of more cautious circumvention strategies, the similarities in strategies between the two environments and the advantages of VEs (e.g. controlled exposure, reproduction of ecologically valid conditions and safety) suggest that virtual reality is a valuable tool to study visually-guided locomotor tasks such as pedestrian circumvention and shows great potential for assessment and intervention in physical rehabilitation.

Language: en


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