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Assessment of Postflight Locomotor Performance Utilizing a Test of Functional Mobility: Strategic and Adaptive ResponsesSpace flight induces adaptive modification in sensorimotor function, allowing crewmembers to operate in the unique microgravity environment. This adaptive state, however, is inappropriate for a terrestrial environment. During a re-adaptation period upon their return to Earth, crewmembers experience alterations in sensorimotor function, causing various disturbances in perception, spatial orientation, posture, gait, and eye-head coordination. Following long duration space flight, sensorimotor dysfunction would prevent or extend the time required to make an emergency egress from the vehicle; compromising crew safety and mission objectives. We are investigating two types of motor learning that may interact with each other and influence a crewmember's ability to re-adapt to Earth's gravity environment. In strategic learning, crewmembers make rapid modifications in their motor control strategy emphasizing error reduction. This type of learning may be critical during the first minutes and hours after landing. In adaptive learning, long-term plastic transformations occur, involving morphological changes and synaptic modification. In recent literature these two behavioral components have been associated with separate brain structures that control the execution of motor strategies: the strategic component was linked to the posterior parietal cortex and the adaptive component was linked to the cerebellum (Pisella, et al. 2004). The goal of this paper was to demonstrate the relative contributions of the strategic and adaptive components to the re-adaptation process in locomotor control after long duration space flight missions on the International Space Station (ISS). The Functional Mobility Test (FMT) was developed to assess crewmember s ability to ambulate postflight from an operational and functional perspective. Sixteen crewmembers were tested preflight (3 sessions) and postflight (days 1, 2, 4, 7, 25) following a long duration space flight (approx 6 months) on the ISS. We have further analyzed the FMT data to characterize strategic and adaptive components during the postflight readaptation period. Crewmembers walked at a preferred pace through an obstacle course set up on a base of 10 cm thick medium density foam (Sunmate Foam, Dynamic Systems, Inc., Leicester, NC). The 6.0m X 4.0m course consisted of several pylons made of foam; a Styrofoam barrier 46.0cm high that crewmembers stepped over; and a portal constructed of two Styrofoam blocks, each 31cm high, with a horizontal bar covered by foam and suspended from the ceiling which was adjusted to the height of the crewmember s shoulder. The portal required crewmembers to bend at the waist and step over a barrier simultaneously. All obstacles were lightweight, soft and easily knocked over. Crewmembers were instructed to walk through the course as quickly and as safely as possible without touching any of the objects on the course. This task was performed three times in the clockwise direction and three times in the counterclockwise direction that was randomly chosen. The dependent measures for each trial were: time to complete the course (seconds) and the number of obstacles touched or knocked down. For each crewmember, the time to complete each FMT trial from postflight days 1, 2, 4, 7 and 25 were further analyzed. A single logarithmic curve using a least squares calculation was fit through these data to produce a single comprehensive curve (macro). This macro curve composed of data spanning 25 days, illustrates the re-adaptive learning function over the longer time scale term. Additionally, logarithmic curves were fit to the 6 data trials within each individual post flight test day to produce 5 separate daily curves. These micro curves, produced from data obtained over the course of minutes, illustrates the strategic learning function exhibited over a relative shorter time scale. The macro curve for all subjects exhibited adaptive motor learning patterns over the 25 day period. Howev, 9/16 crewmembers exhibited significant strategic motor learning patterns in their micro curves, as defined by m > 1 in the equation of the line y=m*LN(x) +b. These data indicate that postflight recovery in locomotor function involves both strategic and adaptive mechanisms. Future countermeasures will be designed to enhance both recovery processes.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Warren, L. E. (Universities Space Research Association Houston, TX, United States)
Mulavara, A. P. (Baylor Coll. of Medicine Houston, TX, United States)
Peters, B. T. (Wyle Life Sciences, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Cohen, H. S. (Baylor Coll. of Medicine Houston, TX, United States)
Richards, J. T. (Wyle Life Sciences, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Miller, C. A. (Wyle Life Sciences, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Brady, R. (Wyle Life Sciences, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Ruttley, T. M. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Bloomberg, J. J. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
June 7, 2006
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Meeting Information
Seventh Symposium on the Role of the Vestibular(Noordwijk)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits