Adam Barnas, Ellen J. Hart, Natalya N. Lynn, Lauren M. Pytel



Download Project (1.7 MB)


Spatial updating, or the process of keeping track of objects' locations relative to one's spatial position while moving is critical to a variety of navigation tasks. Although updating is likely to occur automatically during sighted walking, walking without vision requires imagined updating of spatial relationships that change concurrently with movement. In particular, dynamic spatial updating likely underlies accurate performance when blind-walking to previously seen targets, a task commonly used to assess distance perception (Rieser et al., 1990). Studies of imagined walking suggest that the biomechanical information from locomotion influences the accuracy of spatial updating and blind-walking (Kunz et al., 2009). As replications and extensions of previous research, we further investigated the role of biomechanical information in spatial updating by manipulating the biomechanics of locomotion and the direction of spatial updating during blind walking. In Experiment 1, participants viewed targets that were positioned directly in front of or behind them. Participants were instructed to walk without vision to the targets while spatially updating their position in the environment as they walked either forward to targets in front of them or backward to targets behind them. Consistent with previous results, participants were generally accurate in both forward and backward walking, suggesting that participants spatially update in a manner consistent with their direction of movement, even for backward locomotion. Experiments 2 and 3 attempt to decouple the biomechanics of walking and the direction of spatial updating. Between these experiments, participants will view targets located directly in front of them at different distance ranges. Participants will be instructed to either walk forward without vision to the targets while spatially updating or backward away from the targets while, at the same time, imagining themselves walking forward to the targets and spatially updating in a manner consistent with the imagined forward walking.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Benjamin R. Kunz

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium poster

Decoupling the Biomechanics of Locomotion and the Direction of Spatial Updating During Blind-walking Tasks