Purpose Spatial updating refers to the ability to keep track of position and orientation while moving through an environment. People with impaired vision may be less accurate in spatial updating with adverse consequences for indoor navigation. In this study, we asked how artificial restrictions on visual acuity and field size affect spatial updating, and also judgments of the size of rooms. Methods Normally sighted young adults were tested with artificial restriction of acuity in Mild Blur (Snellen 20/135) and Severe Blur (Snellen 20/900) conditions, and a Narrow Field (8°) condition. The subjects estimated the dimensions of seven rectangular rooms with and without these visual restrictions. They were also guided along three-segment paths in the rooms. At the end of each path, they were asked to estimate the distance and direction to the starting location. In Experiment 1, the subjects walked along the path. In Experiment 2, they were pushed in a wheelchair to determine if reduced proprioceptive input would result in poorer spatial updating. Results With unrestricted vision, mean Weber fractions for room-size estimates were near 20%. Severe Blur but not Mild Blur yielded larger errors in room-size judgments. The Narrow Field was associated with increased error, but less than with Severe Blur. There was no effect of visual restriction on estimates of distance back to the starting location, and only Severe Blur yielded larger errors in the direction estimates. Contrary to expectation, the wheelchair subjects did not exhibit poorer updating performance than the walking subjects, nor did they show greater dependence on visual condition. Discussion If our results generalize to people with low vision, severe deficits in acuity or field will adversely affect the ability to judge the size of indoor spaces, but updating of position and orientation may be less affected by visual impairment.
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© 2016 Legge et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.