A Mystery: Why Can't We Walk Straight? : NPR

We cover this topic, and so much more, in our own way on Podcast #31 on The Gait Guys Experience Podcast (link here).

Still haven’t joined us on a podcast yet ? You might be shocked at how much you learn about gait, the human body and so much more. We start each podcast with a neuroscience piece talking about the latest breakthroughs in science that will be coming our way to help us function as humans.

Give us a listen, what do you have to lose ? Take Dr. Ivo and Dr. Shawn on your next car ride, on your next trip to cut the lawn, your next walk or run.  Let our bad jokes and strange ways entertain you !

Here was some of the research that led to our podcast discussion.

Curr Biol. 2009 Sep 29;19(18):1538-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.053. Epub 2009 Aug 20.

Walking straight into circles.


Multisensory Perception and Action Group, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Spemannstrasse 41, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. jan.souman@tuebingen.mpg.de


Common belief has it that people who get lost in unfamiliar terrain often end up walking in circles. Although uncorroborated by empirical data, this belief has widely permeated popular culture. Here, we tested the ability of humans to walk on a straight course through unfamiliar terrain in two different environments: a large forest area and the Sahara desert. Walking trajectories of several hours were captured via global positioning system, showing that participants repeatedly walked in circles when they could not see the sun. Conversely, when the sun was visible, participants sometimes veered from a straight course but did not walk in circles. We tested various explanations for this walking behavior by assessing the ability of people to maintain a fixed course while blindfolded. Under these conditions, participants walked in often surprisingly small circles (diameter < 20 m), though rarely in a systematic direction. These results rule out a general explanation in terms of biomechanical asymmetries or other general biases [1-6]. Instead, they suggest that veering from a straight course is the result of accumulating noise in the sensorimotor system, which, without an external directional reference to recalibrate the subjective straight ahead, may cause people to walk in circles.