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System uses electrical trickery on the brain to induce realistic spaceflight effects
Date:8/24/2010

HOUSTON (Aug. 24, 2010) What does it feel like to return to Earth after a long stay in space? Until now, it has been difficult during astronaut training to realistically simulate the dizzying effects the human body can experience.

Dr. Steven Moore leads a research group that has developed a Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) system that safely induces the sensory and mobility disturbances commonly experienced by astronauts after returning to Earth's gravity, making it an excellent operational training tool.

When returning to gravity, these disturbances could affect an astronaut's vision and neurological function, impacting the ability to land a spacecraft. Once on the ground, astronauts often have trouble keeping their balance and walking.

"You can train for spaceflight tasks under normal conditions on Earth, b ut that will not give you an indication of what an astronaut will feel like," said Moore, a member of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's (NSBRI) Sensorimotor Adaptation Team. "The GVS system will make mission simulations more realistic. This will be quite useful for astronaut training, especially for astronauts that have not flown before."

The system developed by Moore, who is an associate professor of neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, uses electrodes placed behind the ear to deliver small amounts of electricity to the vestibular nerve, which then sends the signals to the brain, resulting in sensorimotor disturbances.

"We know that GVS is a good model of how microgravity affects astronauts," Moore said. "What we didn't know is how good of an operational analog GVS is for the effects of spaceflight. We now have a validated, ground-based analog for the effects of spaceflight on neurological function that is not just posture, balance and eye movement."

The concept of tricking the brain with Galvanic vestibular stimulation has been around for a long time
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Contact: Brad Thomas
rbthomas@bcm.edu
713-798-7595
National Space Biomedical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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