Human movement science vol:23 issue:3-4 pages:351-363
It has been reported that obstacle avoidance reactions during gait have very short latencies. This raises the question whether the cortex can be involved, as it is in voluntary reactions. In this study, latencies of obstacle avoidance (OA) reactions were determined and related to latencies of voluntary stride modifications and simple reaction times (SRT) of hand and foot. Twenty-five healthy young adults participated in this study. While they were walking on the treadmill, an obstacle suddenly fell in front of their left leg. The first reaction to the obstacle was the moment at which the differentiated acceleration curve of the foot deviated from the control signal. Latencies of OA reactions were 122 ms (SD 14 ms) on average. Two very different avoidance reactions (lengthening and shortening of the stride) were noticed, but there was no avoidance strategy effect on OA latencies. OA latencies were significantly shorter as compared to latencies of voluntary stride modifications and simple reaction times of hand and foot. The short OA latencies could not only be explained from the dynamic nature of the task. It is suggested that subcortical pathways might be involved in obstacle avoidance.