Head control strategies during whole-body turns

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Recent reports have described the motion of individual body segments during turns toward visual targets. During a whole-body turn, the head's trajectory in space is determined by both body-in-space rotation and head-on-body rotation. To inform subsequent investigations of head control strategies during turns, we provide a kinematic description of head and pelvis rotation in 20 healthy human subjects as they performed step turns toward a visible target or in the direction of a previously seen target. At the time of peak head velocity in space, the head was moving faster than the pelvis by ˜54° s-1 when turning toward a visible target, and ˜25° s-1 when turning in a remembered direction. Peak head velocities were slower in the absence of a visual target, but pelvis velocities were not significantly different. The pattern of relative motion between the head and pelvis followed a temporal sequence. Early in the turn, the head rotated with respect to the pelvis in the same direction as the pelvis was rotating in space. During the mid portions of the turn, en bloc rotation of the head and pelvis predominated. Later in the turn, head-in-space velocity was lower than pelvis-in-space velocity, and was thus relatively stabilized. This pattern of head movement during turns is quite similar to eye-in-head movements during large eye-head gaze shifts. This suggests that in addition to saccadic and stabilization mechanisms, a specific control strategy to move segments together should be incorporated into models of gaze reorienting behavior.

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