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Introduction: The regulation of one’s step length by placing one’s foot at a specific position within gait, otherwise known as ‘locomotor pointing’, is well understood in walking and running gait. The current study was the first to broaden this understanding to a larger cohort and to describe the influence of age on the regulation of locomotor pointing when walking up to and stepping onto a curb-like platform. Methods: Younger (n = 17, mean age: 25.35 years, range: 19–33) and older adults (n = 105, mean age: 71.49 years, range: 61–86) participated in a walking experiment, requiring them to approach and step onto a curb-like platform. Linear mixed effects modeling was used to study the main outcome variables: onset of regulation, the regulation strategy and the strength of perceptual-motor coupling. Results: Results showed that with older age, participants showed less variability in foot placement during their approach and seemed to prefer to shorten their steps. Furthermore, the strength of the perceptual-motor relationship was found to be related to age; regulation of step length of both younger and older participants was based on a participant’s current foot position. The strength of this relationship increased as participants got closer to the curb and was stronger with increasing age. Furthermore, younger adults on average lengthened their steps as they got closer to the curb, whereas older adults showed significantly less lengthening compared to their younger counterparts. No age-related differences were found in terms of onset of regulation. Discussion: The results suggest that the strength of the perceptual-motor relationship in gait is related to age. It is argued that this age-related increase in the strength of perceptual-motor coupling is required to cope with increasing demands linked to the age-related declines of action capabilities. The implications of the findings are discussed in the context of increased falls risks and deficits in perceptual-motor functioning.


School of Exercise Science

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.