Increased brain cortical activity during parabolic flights has no influence on a motor tracking task

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Previous studies showed that changing forces of gravity as they typically occur during parabolic flights might be responsible for adaptional processes of the CNS. However, until now it has not been differentiated between primary influences of weightlessness and secondary influences due to psycho-physiological factors (e.g., physical or mental strain). With the aim of detecting parabolic flight related changes in central cortical activity, a resting EEG was deduced in 16 subjects before, during and after parabolic flights. After subdividing EEG into alpha-, beta-,delta- and theta-wave bands, an increase in beta-power was noticeable inflight, whereas alpha(1)-power was increased postflight. No changes could be observed for the control group. To control possible effects of cortical activation, a manual tracking task with mirror inversion was performed during either the phase of weightlessness or during the normal gravity phase of a parabolic flight. No differences in performance nor in adaptation could be observed between both groups. A third group, performing under normal and stress-free conditions in a lab showed similar tracking values. We assume that the specific increase in brain activity is a sign of an increase in arousal inflight. This does support previous assumptions of non-specific stressors during parabolic flights and has to be considered as a relevant factor for experiments on central nerve adaptation. Although no influences of stress and/or weightlessness on motor performance and adaptation could be observed, we suggest that an "inflight" control group seems to be more adequate than a laboratory control group to investigate gravity-dependent changes in motor control.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental brain research
Volume185
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)571-579
Number of pages9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2008

ID: 34301

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