NeuroCog Testbatterie ISS

Project: Funded by Third Parties

Project participants


Research Objective

Living in extreme environments is accompanied by a number of stressors, which can be classified either as physiological stressors (e.g. microgravity, missing sunlight) or psychological stressors (e.g. confinement). From a multitude of studies a negative impact of stress on mental health and cognitive performance is well known and both factors might impair mission success and mission safety during longer inhabitation of space.
Nevertheless causal research of neuro-cognitive impairments in space remains speculative due to missing possibilities of brain imaging. Furthermore the reliability of current psychological tests used to assess and monitor cognitive performance in extreme environments seems to be vulnerable due to a lack of compliance. Accordingly it is proposed to use an embedded approach, integrating psychological and neuro-cognitive testing in work sample training and other daily routines with high affinity for cosmonauts/astronauts.

With on-going plans of international space agencies to send people to moon and/or mars, at first this proposal aims (1) to summarize and review research attempts of the past two decades, (2) to identify methodological shortcomings and (3) to propose a number of recommendations in order to enhance future neuro-cognitive research in extreme environments.


Based on this consideration, a first set of experiments is proposed for embedded neuro-cognitive testing within the restrictions on board of the International Space Station (ISS). By using the existing Soyuz docking manoeuvre training, which is currently performed on board of the ISS, and integrating an active EEG system to allow for localisation of brain cortical activity using source localisation algorithms, it is aimed to (1) assess mental load and cognitive performance by using neurocognitive markers (P300) and to correlate these with docking performance, (2) to explore how these markers are influenced by stress and (3) to check whether exercise could act as a “neuro-enhancer” and an adequate countermeasure to stress as currently discussed in the literature.

Using up to date brain-imaging techniques that are applicable to the very specific situation in extreme environments will help identify the processes of neuro-plasticity caused by stress, their impact on mental and cognitive performance, and the efficacy of countermeasures to assure mental and cognitive performance.
A deeper insight into neuro-cognitive coherence is not only desirable to understand the effects of stress on mental health, which seems to be a major issue for our current society, but will also help to maintain and improve mission success and mission safety in manned space flight by developing adequate countermeasures.
Life span01.01.1501.01.18

ID: 432572

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