Gait adaptation during obstacle crossing reveals impairments in the visual control of locomotion in Williams syndrome Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent evidence indicates that individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), a rare genetically based neurodevelopmental disorder, show abnormalities of parietal and cerebellar regions of the brain that may be involved in the visual control of locomotion. Here we examined whether parietal and cerebellar abnormalities contribute to deficits in spatiotemporal characteristics and foot placement variability during obstacle crossing in adults with WS, when compared with an IQ-matched group of adults with Down syndrome (DS) and typically developing adult controls. We used the GAITRite walkway to examine the spatiotemporal characteristics and foot placement variability relative to a small ground-based obstacle in the travel path. We found that adults with WS showed late adjustments to spatiotemporal gait characteristics alongside an exaggerated and more spatially constrained visual guidance of foot positioning in the final steps prior to stepping over the obstacle. In contrast, the adults with DS showed longer step duration and more variable step length and step duration during the crossing and recovery steps after the obstacle, suggestive of cerebellar dysfunction. Although the controls were able to reduce the variability of foot placement across the obstacle crossing trials, both the WS and DS groups did not become more consistent with practice. These findings indicate a less flexible and overly constrained visuomotor system in WS, which is consistent with more widespread and diffuse abnormalities in parietal and cerebellar regions.


  • Hocking, DR
  • Rinehart, NJ
  • McGinley, JL
  • Galna, B
  • Moss, SA
  • Bradshaw, JL

publication date

  • December 2011