The effects of an auditory startle on obstacle avoidance during walking
Queralt, Ana × Weerdesteyn, Vivian van Duijnhoven, Hanneke J R Castellote, Juan M Valls-Solé, Josep Duysens, Jaak #
Cambridge University Press
Journal of Physiology-London vol:586 issue:Pt 18 pages:4453-63
Movement execution is speeded up when a startle auditory stimulus is applied with an imperative signal in a simple reaction time task experiment, a phenomenon described as StartReact. The effect has been recently observed in a step adjustment task requiring fast selection of specific movements in a choice reaction time task. Therefore, we hypothesized that inducing a StartReact effect may be beneficial in obstacle avoidance under time pressure, when subjects have to perform fast gait adjustments. Twelve healthy young adults walked on a treadmill and obstacles were released in specific moments of the step cycle. On average the EMG onset latency in the biceps femoris shortened by 20% while amplitude increased by 50%, in trials in which an auditory startle accompanied obstacle avoidance. The presentation of a startle increased the probability of using a long step strategy, enlarged stride length modifications and resulted in higher success rates, to avoid the obstacle. We also examined the effects of the startle in a condition in which the obstacle was not present in comparison to a condition in which the obstacle was visibly present but it did not fall. In the latter condition, the obstacle avoidance reaction occurred with a similar latency but smaller amplitude as in trials in which the obstacle was actually released. Our results suggest that the motor programmes used for obstacle avoidance are probably stored at subcortical structures. The release of these motor programmes by a startling auditory stimulus may combine intersensory facilitation and the StartReact effect.