Vestibular and Sensorimotor Dysfunction During Space Flight
- 61 Downloads
Purpose of Review
This paper aims to review dysfunctions in spatial orientation, cognition, gaze stabilization, and posture and locomotor control recently documented in astronauts during and immediately after both short- and long-duration space flights.
The spatial disorientation and cognitive deficits experienced by astronauts in microgravity are similar to those observed in individuals with vestibular disorders on Earth. After space flight, astronauts take more time to acquire visual targets while moving their head. Balance and locomotion control are impaired for approximately 15 days after long-duration space flight. Altered vestibular and proprioceptive inputs and changes in cortical sensory motor maps are presumed to be responsible for these deficits.
Illusions of motion, underestimation of distance, delay in acquiring visual targets, and impairments in locomotion are potentially dangerous during operation of the spacecraft, especially during long-duration missions involving transitions between gravitational levels, and during landing when accurate manual and locomotor control is critical.
KeywordsVestibular system Otoliths Microgravity Eye-head coordination Posture Locomotion Adaptation
This work was supported by NASA. The authors thank Kerry George for editing the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Millard Reschke and Gilles Clément declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Content
All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/national/institutional guidelines).
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major Importance
- 1.Goldberg JM, Wilson VJ, Cullen KE, Angelaki DE, Broussard AM, Büttner-Ennever J, et al. The vestibular system: a sixth sense. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2002.Google Scholar
- 3.• Paloski WH, Oman CM, Bloomberg JJ, Reschke MF, Wood SJ, Harm DL, et al. Risk of sensory-motor performance failures affecting vehicle control during space missions: a review of the evidence. J Gravit Physiol. 2008;15:1–29. This is a comprehensive review of the research and operational evidence that demonstrate decreased visual acuity, eye-hand coordination, spatial and geographical orientation perception, and cognitive function during and after spaceflight. Google Scholar
- 4.Oman C. Spatial orientation and navigation in microgravity. In: Mast FW, Jäncke L, editors. Spatial processing in navigation, imagery, and perception. New York, NY: Springer; 2010. p. 209–48.Google Scholar
- 15.Kanas N, Manzey D. Space Psychology and Psychiatry. El Segundo, CA: Microcosm Press; New York, NY: Springer; 2008.Google Scholar
- 20.Hanes DA, McCollum G. Cognitive-vestibular interactions: a review of patient difficulties and possible mechanisms. J Vestib Res. 2006;95:343–8.Google Scholar
- 29.Brandt T, Strupp M, Dieterich M. Towards a concept of disorders of higher vestibular function. Front Integrat Neurosci. 2014;8(47):22–9.Google Scholar
- 30.Pelisson D, Prablanc C. Eye-hand coordination. In: Binder MD, Hirokawa N, Windhorst U, editors. Encyclopedia of neuroscience. Heidelberg: Springer; 2008. p. 1540–2.Google Scholar
- 36.• Reschke MF, Kolev OI, Clément G. Eye-head coordination in 31 space shuttle astronauts during visual target acquisition. Sci Rep. 2017;7:14283. This research study demonstrates a significant delay in acquiring visual targets after space flight, which is caused by a decrease in velocity and amplitude of both eye and head movements. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- 38.Reschke MF, Kozlovskaya IB, Somers JT, Kornilova LN, Paloski WH, Berthoz A. Smooth pursuit deficits in space flights of variable length. J Gravit Physiol. 2002;9:133–6.Google Scholar
- 39.Paloski WH, Reschke MF, Black FO, Dow RS. Recovery of postural equilibrium control following space flight (DSO 605). In: Sawin CF, Taylor GR, Smith WL, editors. Extended duration orbiter medical project final report (1989–1995). NASA SP-1999-534. Houston: NASA Johnson Space Center; 5.4–1–5; 1999. p. 4–16.Google Scholar
- 46••.Wood SJ, Paloski WH, Clark JB. Assessing sensorimotor function on ISS with computerized dynamic posturography. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015;86(Suppl 12):A1–9. This study reports the decrements in postural control performance during standardized sensory organization tests in 26 astronauts following long-duration missions on board the ISS. Google Scholar
- 56••.Mulavara AP, Feiveson A, Feidler J, Cohen HS, Peters BT, Miller CA, et al. Locomotor function after long-duration space flight: effects and motor learning during recovery. Exp Brain Res. 2010;202:649–59. This study on 18 astronauts demonstrated that the time to walk an obstacle course increased by 48% after long-duration spaceflight, and returned to preflight level at approximately 15 days post-flight. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 57.Reschke MF, Good EF, Clément G. Vestibular symptoms in astronauts following space shuttle and international Space Station missions. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;1:1–8.Google Scholar
- 60.Reschke MF, Bloomberg JJ, Harm DL, Huebner WP, Krnavek J, Paloski WH, et al. Visual-vestibular integration as a function of adaptation to space flight and return to earth. In: SaWin CF, Taylor GR, Smith WL, editors. Extended duration orbiter medical project. Final report (1989–1995). NASA SP-1999-534. Houston: NASA Johnson Space Center; 5.3–1–5; 1999. p. 3–41.Google Scholar
- 67.Correia MJ, Perachio AA, Dickman JD, Kozlovskaya IB, Sirota MG, Yakushin SB, et al. Changes in monkey horizontal semicircular afferent responses following space flight. J Appl Phys. 1992;73:121S–31S.Google Scholar
- 69•.Aseyev N, Vinarskaya AK, Roshchin M, Korshunova TA, Malyshev AY, Zuzina AB, et al. Adaptive changes in the vestibular system of land snail to a 30-day spaceflight and readaptation on return to earth. Front Cell Neurosci. 2017;11(1):348. This study demonstrated hypersensitivity to tilt in the hair cells of the peripheral vestibular end organ of land snail after spaceflight, suggesting an upregulation of the graviceptor following adaptation to microgravity. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- 71.Kass J. The reorganization of sensory and motor maps in adult animals. In: Gazzaniga MS, editor. The cognitive neurosciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 1995. p. 51–72.Google Scholar
- 72••.Koppelmans V, Bloomberg JJ, Mulavara AP, Seidler RD. Brain structural plasticity with spaceflight. npj Microgravity. 2016;2:2. This retrospective study showed an increase in gray matter volume in sensorimotor brain regions in astronauts after long-duration spaceflight. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar