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Turns Out You Do Watch Your Step

Visual information rapidly adjusts your leg movements in potential falls, new research shows

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- A powerful visual system that can make rapid adjustments to your legs to help prevent falls in tricky footing situations has been identified by researchers at University College London, England.

This system is similar to one in which your hand movements are rapidly and automatically directed by visual information, the researchers said.

They measured how people respond when a stepping stone suddenly shifts in mid-step. The results showed that leg muscle activity in volunteers was altered within a tenth of a second after the stepping stone moved. This leg muscle change drove the foot toward the shifted stone in an attempt to gain safe footing.

This visual system may be advantageous for two-legged movement over unpredictable terrain, which demands fast leg reactions based on immediate visual information, while still maintaining balance, the researchers said.

The study appears in the journal Current Biology.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers advice on how to prevent falls.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Jan. 25, 2005
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