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Astronaut Balancing Act: Training to Help Explorers Adapt to a Return to Gravity
Date:12/9/2009

e system into the treadmill on a spacecraft, allowing astronauts to perform adaptability training on long missions. Integration would save space and power, both precious commodities on a spacecraft.

Chiao, who is the chairman of NSBRI's User Panel, said the research could provide insight about much longer missions. "On a flight to Mars, astronauts will be in zero-gravity for six months or more. When they get to Mars, they will experience one-third gravity," Chiao said. "Will systems like this allow them to go to work right away? Or will there need to be a recovery period or procedures before exploration can begin? These are important questions that this research is addressing."

Project co-investigator Dr. Helen Cohen, professor of otolaryngology at Baylor College of Medicine, said, "It will not be a good situation if an astronaut lands on a new planet and has problems maintaining balance. The training could help maintain astronaut safety and help them accomplish mission objectives."

Sensorimotor disturbances are not limited to standing up and walking. "Some people with inner ear trouble don't steer a vehicle well," said Cohen, associate director of the Center for Balance Disorders at BCM. "Adaptability training could also help people to perform these types of tasks better."

Even though the cause of the sensorimotor problems is different, Bloomberg said the adaptability training concept could help prevent falls in the elderly.

"For astronauts, the sensory systems are working just fine but the information is being interpreted differently. For the elderly, it could be a combination of issues: the sensory systems may be deteriorated or the information may not be integrated by the brain as well as before," he said. "We might use this training to improve some of the deficits that the elderly might experience. There are definitely applications in the clinical world in
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SOURCE National Space Biomedical Research Institute
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