Astronauts on long-duration space exploration missions will experience gravitational transitions, as well as extended periods of micro- and fractional gravity, with associated adaptation in their sensory and motor systems. Disorientation, vestibular-autonomic responses, and changes in vision, proprioception, cognition, balance and motor control may lead to impaired performance and compromised mission success.
In addition to identifying individual risk factors, the Sensorimotor Adaptation Team examines sensory systems, their interactions, and integration with the brain and motor behavior relevant for long-duration space missions. Research to understand fundamental physiological and biomolecular processes is complemented by development of personalized countermeasures, with particular emphasis on high priority gaps and operational needs. The Team’s research has terrestrial benefits for those suffering from an array of neurosensory and motor conditions, especially in the elderly where falls are endemic.
Ajitkumar P. Mulavara, Ph.D.
Universities Space Research Association
Associate Team Leader:
Rachael D. Seidler, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
The Sensorimotor Adaptation Team is developing countermeasures to mitigate sensorimotor risks associated with adaptation to spaceflight and readaptation to gravitational environments. The Team’s goal is to define the mechanisms of adaptation, quantify the magnitude and duration of decrements in crew performance and the impact on safety, and develop practical standards and countermeasures. Projects address sensorimotor risk areas including disorientation, manual control, movement and space motion sickness.
The Team’s anticipated deliverables for spaceflight include:
Sensorimotor disturbances are not limited to spaceflight. They are associated with many clinical disorders on Earth and often accompany the aging process. Commercial, military and general aviation pilots are at risk from spatial disorientation. The Sensorimotor Adaptation Team’s research has applications for Earth use in the following ways: