The role of central vision in posture: Postural sway adaptations in Stargardt patients

V. Agostini, A. Sbrollini, C. Cavallini, A. Busso, G. Pignata and M. Knaflitz
Gait & Posture

The role of central and peripheral vision in the maintenance of upright stance is debated in literature. Stargardt disease causes visual deficits affecting the central field, but leaving unaltered a patient’s peripheral vision. Hence, the study of this rare pathology gives the opportunity to selectively investigate the role of central vision in posture. Postural sway in quiet stance was analyzed in 10 Stargardt patients and 10 control subjects, in three different conditions: (1) eyes closed, (2) eyes open, gazing at a fixed target, and (3) eyes open, tracking a moving target. Stargardt patients outperformed controls in the condition with eyes closed, showing a reduced root mean square (RMS) of the medio-lateral COP displacement, while their performance was not significantly different from controls in the antero-posterior direction. There were no significant differences between patients and controls in open eyes conditions. These results suggest that Stargardt patients adapted to a different visual-somatosensory integration, relying less on vision, especially in the medio-lateral direction. Hence, the central vision seems to affect mostly the medio-lateral direction of postural sway. This finding supports the plausibility of the “functional sensitivity hypothesis”, that assigns complementary roles to central and peripheral vision in the control of posture.

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