Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Baby Lab

What are the factors responsible for the deviation in stepping on the spot?

Without vision, keeping a straight-ahead direction while stepping on the spot is almost impossible, everybody deviates more or less. Several explanations for this, such as laterality, vestibulo-spinal influence, dopamine system, have been proposed. The aims of the experiment presented here were (1) to quantify the lateral deviation when stepping using a modified Fukuda test apparatus, and (2) to determine the factors potentially underlying such deviation. Twenty-five young adults, blindfolded, performed the experiment which consisted in stepping while holding a rotating vertical roll bar fixed on the wall. Four experimental conditions (i.e., normal, with an imposed pace, dual-task, or with the neck bent) were tested. All participants deviated towards one side or the other in all conditions. Adding an attentional load or imposing a particular pace did not change the amount of deviation. For three conditions (normal, with an imposed pace and dual-task), the deviation towards one side was not significantly larger than towards the other side at the group level. In the bent-neck condition, the deviation was significantly larger than in the other conditions. Furthermore, in this condition the deviation towards the left was significantly larger than the deviation towards the right at the group level. We discussed the results regarding the role of vestibular information and proprioceptive feedback from neck muscles in correcting a spontaneous deviation. Our results, however, go against the idea that sensorimotor lateral preferences are among the factors underlying such deviations, since we found no relationship between lateral preferences (hand, foot, and eye) and the side of deviation.