As a consequence of stroke, perceptual and motor disorders can arise and lead to limitations in mobility and community ambulation (e.g. ambulating in a shopping mall, or a park). Essential requirements for safe and efficacious community ambulation include the ability to avoid other pedestrians while coping with environmental distractors or performing a simultaneous cognitive task (e.g. remembering a shopping list).
The goal of this research program is to examine the causes related to perception and motor control that explain community ambulation difficulties in persons with stroke. Participants with different types of stroke (right, left, with and without perception disorders) will be assessed while walking in a virtual environment representing a shopping mall. Their performance will be measured as they avoid virtual pedestrians (avatars) approaching from different directions, under challenging conditions that are representative of everyday life (visual and sound distractors, simultaneous performance of a memory task).
The effect of the type of stroke on the participants' performance will be analysed. Possible relationships between the ability to perceive the avatars and to avoid them while walking will also be examined. A prototype of a training toolkit for community ambulation will also be developed and evaluated. This toolkit will rely on cutting edge technology that is available and affordable, and which was initially developed for the video game industry.
Results fostered through this research program will help to understand the role of perceptual and motor disorders associated with difficulties in community ambulation after stroke, while providing essential knowledge for the development of individually tailored virtual reality interventions to optimize mobility, social participation and quality of life.