Vision Affects Gait Speed but not Patterns of Muscle Activation During Inclined Walking—A Virtual Reality Study

Amit Benady, Sean Zadik, Oran Ben-Gal, Desiderio Cano Porras, Atalia Wenkert, Sharon Gilaie-Dotan, Meir Plotnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While walking, our locomotion is affected by and adapts to the environment based on vision- and body-based (vestibular and proprioception) cues. When transitioning to downhill walking, we modulate gait by braking to avoid uncontrolled acceleration, and when transitioning to uphill walking, we exert effort to avoid deceleration. In this study, we aimed to measure the influence of visual inputs on this behavior and on muscle activation. Specifically, we aimed to explore whether the gait speed modulations triggered by mere visual cues after transitioning to virtually inclined surface walking are accompanied by changes in muscle activation patterns typical to those triggered by veridical (gravitational) surface inclination transitions. We used an immersive virtual reality system equipped with a self-paced treadmill and projected visual scenes that allowed us to modulate physical–visual inclination congruence parametrically. Gait speed and leg muscle electromyography were measured in 12 healthy young adults. In addition, the magnitude of subjective visual verticality misperception (SVV) was measured by the rod and frame test. During virtual (non-veridical) inclination transitions, vision modulated gait speed by (i) slowing down to counteract the excepted gravitational “boost” in virtual downhill inclinations and (ii) speeding up to counteract the expected gravity resistance in virtual uphill inclinations. These gait speed modulations were reflected in muscle activation intensity changes and associated with SVV misperception. However, temporal patterns of muscle activation were not affected by virtual (visual) inclination transitions. Our results delineate the contribution of vision to locomotion and may lead to enhanced rehabilitation strategies for neurological disorders affecting movement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number632594
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
StatePublished - 9 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grant #1657-16. SG-D was supported by the Israel Science Foundation grant #1485/18.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Benady, Zadik, Ben-Gal, Cano Porras, Wenkert, Gilaie-Dotan and Plotnik.


  • electromyography
  • inclined surfaces
  • locomotion
  • rod-and-frame
  • visual dependency
  • visuomotor integration


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