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The flexible Action System: Click-based Echolocation may replace certain visual Functionality for adaptive Walking

Thaler, L.; Zhang, X.; Antoniou, M.; Kish, D.; Cowie, D.

The flexible Action System: Click-based Echolocation may replace certain visual Functionality for adaptive Walking Thumbnail


Authors

X. Zhang

M. Antoniou

D. Kish



Abstract

People use sensory, in particular visual, information to guide actions such as walking around obstacles, grasping or reaching. However, it is presently unclear how malleable the sensorimotor system is. The present study investigated this by measuring how click-based echolocation may be used to avoid obstacles while walking. We tested 7 blind echolocation experts, 14 sighted, and 10 blind echolocation beginners. For comparison, we also tested 10 sighted participants, who used vision. To maximize the relevance of our research for people with vision impairments, we also included a condition where the long cane was used and considered obstacles at different elevations. Motion capture and sound data were acquired simultaneously. We found that echolocation experts walked just as fast as sighted participants using vision, and faster than either sighted or blind echolocation beginners. Walking paths of echolocation experts indicated early and smooth adjustments, similar to those shown by sighted people using vision and different from later and more abrupt adjustments of beginners. Further, for all participants, the use of echolocation significantly decreased collision frequency with obstacles at head, but not ground level. Further analyses showed that participants who made clicks with higher spectral frequency content walked faster, and that for experts higher clicking rates were associated with faster walking. The results highlight that people can use novel sensory information (here, echolocation) to guide actions, demonstrating the action system’s ability to adapt to changes in sensory input. They also highlight that regular use of echolocation enhances sensory-motor coordination for walking in blind people.

Citation

Thaler, L., Zhang, X., Antoniou, M., Kish, D., & Cowie, D. (2020). The flexible Action System: Click-based Echolocation may replace certain visual Functionality for adaptive Walking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(1), 21-35. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000697

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 30, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 26, 2019
Publication Date Jan 31, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 4, 2019
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Print ISSN 0096-1523
Electronic ISSN 1939-1277
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 1
Pages 21-35
DOI https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000697

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Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (1.5 Mb)
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Publisher Licence URL
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Copyright Statement
Advance online version This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.








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