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Direction of Gaze while Walking a Simple Route: Persons with Normal Vision and Persons with Retinitis Pigmentosa

TURANO, KATHLEEN A. PhD; GERUSCHAT, DUANE R. PhD; BAKER, FRANK H. MD; STAHL, JULIE W. MS; SHAPIRO, MARC D. MS

ORIGINAL ARTICLES
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Purpose. The purpose of this study was to determine whether persons with advanced vision impairment, when walking an unfamiliar route, visually sample the environment in a different manner than do persons with normal vision.

Methods. Direction of gaze was measured in six persons with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and in three persons with normal vision as they walked an unfamiliar, obstacle-free route while viewing the environment in a head-mounted display.

Results. Persons with RP fixated over a larger area in the environment and at different features than did persons with normal vision. Persons with normal vision directed their gaze primarily ahead or at the goal, whereas persons with RP directed their gaze at objects on the walls, downward, or at the layout (i.e., edge-lines or boundaries between walls). The results also showed a significant negative correlation between the horizontal visual field extent of the RP subjects and the proportion of downward-directed fixations.

Conclusions. Persons with advanced vision impairment as a result of RP visually sample the environment in a manner different from persons with normal vision.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Wilmer Eye Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

Kathleen A. Turano

Lions Vision Center

550 N. Broadway, 6th floor

Baltimore, Maryland 21205

e-mail: kathy@lions.med.jhu.edu

Received February 28, 2001;

revision received May 14, 2001.

© 2001 American Academy of Optometry