Effekt von Schwerelosigkeit

Project: Funded by Third Parties

Research Objective

Exposure to a microgravity environment not only results in peripheral physiological deconditioning associated with a lack of musculoskeletal system workload but also in neurocognitive impairments. This is confirmed by a number of studies that report negative effects of long-term inhabitation of space on cognitive performance, mental health and mood (Kanas 1998; Manzey and Lorenz 1998a; Whitmore et al. 1998; Manzey et al. 2000; Heuer et al. 2003a; Johannes et al. 2003). Such deficits are thought to be caused by the multistressor environment, combining primary effects of microgravity (e.g. hemodynamic changes) and secondary stress induced effects of the confinement (Fowler et al. 2000; Manzey et al. 2000) and have been implicated as causes of accidents in space (Ellis 2000). The impact of these parameters has gained increased attention as longer space station missions and plans to travel to Mars have become more concrete. If humans are required to spend an enormous amount of time in cramped spatial and social surroundings with only limited supplies, then there will be a tremendous impact on mood, general well-being and cognitive performance.
In general, physical activity is considered necessary to obtain physical fitness and to counteract physiological decrements during long term space missions. Several exercise protocols have been designed to counteract the loss of muscle and bone mass (Riley 1999; Widrick et al. 1999; Macias et al. 2005; Genc et al. 2006), as well as cardiovascular deconditioning in space (Aubert et al. 2005; Clement and Bukley 2007). However due to time limitations (e.g. on board of the ISS), it seems impossible to exercise the desired time needed to counteract all these physiological decrements. So far, what has not been adequately addressed by space agencies is the fact that physical exercise is also strongly connected to central processes (Woo et al. 2008; Schneider et al. 2009a) and has a huge impact not only on metabolic and cardio-vascular mechanisms but also on mental well-being and cognitive performance (see 2.2.3) (Hollmann and Struder 2000; Struder and Weicker 2001b; Struder and Weicker 2001a; Brisswalter et al. 2002; Anish 2005; Dworak et al. 2008; Schneider et al. 2009h)


The current DLR and ESA strategy involve artificial gravity, provided by a short-arm human centrifuge (SAHC), to counteract metabolic, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular deconditioning at the same time. Our initial findings (Schneider et al. 2009g) show that artificial gravity at 2G / 3G (dependent on the individual subject) results in cardio-respiratory effects similar to those obtained during aerobic exercise. It is possible (see 2.2.1) that brain cortical processes are affected likewise in a manner that results in an improvement of cognitive performance and mood similar to that associated with exercise. Therefore, we hypothesize that the use of a short arm human centrifuge might act as a countermeasure not only to prevent physical deconditioning but also to improve central processing and emotional well-being while living in space.
The present approach uses up-to-date neurophysiological (EEG/sLORETA; gene expression) and neurocognitive methods (WinSCAT) to verify artificial gravity as an adequate countermeasure to maintain crew cognitive performance and overall well-being during long-term space missions.

Key Findings

see publications
Life span01.07.1131.12.14

ID: 432262

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