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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Necessary for effective ambulation, head stability affords optimal conditions for the perception of visual information during dynamic tasks. This maintenance of head-in-space equilibrium is achieved, in part, by the attenuation of the high frequency impact shock resulting from ground contact. While a great deal of experimentation has been done on the matter during steady state locomotion, little is known about how head stability or dynamic visual acuity is maintained during asymmetric walking.

In this study, fifteen participants were instructed to walk on a split-belt treadmill for ten minutes while verbally reporting the orientation of a randomized Landolt-C optotype that was projected at heel strike. Participants were exposed to the baseline, adaptation, and washout conditions, as characterized by belt speed ratios of 1:1, 1:3, and 1:1, respectively. Step length asymmetry, shock attenuation, high (impact) and low (active) frequency head signal power, and dynamic visual acuity scores were averaged across the first and last fifty strides of each condition.

Over the course of the first fifty strides, step length asymmetry was significantly greater during adaptation than during baseline (p d =2.442). Additionally, high frequency head signal power was significantly greater during adaptation than during baseline (p d =1.227), indicating a reduction in head stability. Shock attenuation was significantly lower during adaptation than during baseline (p d =-0.679), and a medium effect size suggests that dynamic visual acuity was lower during adaptation than during baseline as well (p =0.052; d =0.653). When comparing the baseline and adaptation conditions across the last fifty strides, however, many of these decrements were greatly reduced.

The results of this study indicate that the locomotor asymmetry imposed by the split-belt treadmill during the early adaptation condition is responsible for moderate decrements to shock attenuation, head stability, and dynamic visual acuity. Moreover, the relative reduction in magnitude of these decrements across the last fifty strides underscores the adaptive nature of the locomotor and visuomotor systems.


First Advisor

Richard van Emmerik

Second Advisor

Joseph Hamill

Third Advisor

Wouter Hoogkamer