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The effects of spaceflight on open-loop and closed-loop postural control mechanisms: human neurovestibular studies on SLS-2

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Abstract

Stabilogram-diffusion analysis was used to examine how prolonged periods in microgravity affect the open-loop and closed-loop postural control mechanisms. It was hypothesized that following spaceflight: (1) the effective stochastic activity of the open-loop postural control schemes in astronauts is increased; (2) the effective stochastic activity and uncorrelated behavior, respectively, of the closed-loop postural control mechanisms in astronauts are increased; and (3) astronauts utilize open-loop postural control schemes for shorter time intervals and smaller displacements. Four crew members and two alternates from the 14-day Spacelab Life Sciences 2 Mission were included in the study. Each subject was tested under eyes-open, quiet-standing conditions on multiple preflight and postflight days. The subjects' center-of-pressure trajectories were measured with a force platform and analyzed according to stabilogram-diffusion analysis. It was found that the effective stochastic activity of the open-loop postural control schemes in three of the four crew members was increased following space-flight. This result is interpreted as an indication that there may be in-flight adaptations to higher-level descending postural control pathways, e.g., a postflight increase in the tonic activation of postural muscles. This change may also be the consequence of a compensatory (e.g., “stiffening”) postural control strategy that is adopted by astronauts to account for general feelings of post-flight unsteadiness. The crew members, as a group, did not exhibit any consistent preflight/postflight differences in the steady-state behavior of their closed-loop postural control mechanisms or in the functional interaction of their open-loop and closed-loop postural control mechanisms. These results are interpreted as indications that although there may be in-flight adaptations to the vestibular system and/or proprioceptive system, input from the visual system can compensate for such changes during undisturbed stance.

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Collins, J.J., De Luca, C.J., Pavlik, A.E. et al. The effects of spaceflight on open-loop and closed-loop postural control mechanisms: human neurovestibular studies on SLS-2. Exp Brain Res 107, 145–150 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228026

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Key words

  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Center of pressure
  • Microgravity
  • Space shuttle
  • Human