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Review of Human Cognitive Performance in SpaceflightHuman space exploration is inherently hazardous, particularly for lon g duration (LD) missions (22 days or longer). Maintenance of cognitive functioning is essential, but flight environments pose numerous pote ntial risks to the brain and cognitive performance (eg, radiation, to xins, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, hypercarbia, fluid shifts, h ormone imbalances, and injury). There have been persistent anecdotal reports of cognitive deficits during missions, but an up?-to-date rev iew of the evidence for such changes has remained unavailable. Method s: We identified and reviewed English language publications found via electronic searches in PubMed, PsycInfo, Inspec, the NASA Technical Report Server, and the Defense Technical Information Center, plus rec ursive searches of publication bibliographies. Search terms included the word cognition, cognitive, or performance along with spaceflight, flight, mission, or closely related terms. Results: Inter?-study variability precluded meta?-analysis. Some 32 published studies involving cognitive assessment during spaceflight were identified, involving a total of 110 participants (mean: 3.4 participants per study). The lo ngest?-duration study spanned 438 days, with six additional studies i nvolving flight durations of 90 days, and 11 more studies involved fl ight durations exceeding 21 days. The available evidence failed to st rongly support or refute the existence of cognitive deficits in LD sp aceflight, in part due to inadequate power or control conditions. Evi dence of increased variability in cognitive performance during spacef light, both within and between individuals, was common. Discussion: T hese results represent a negative finding based on small numbers of s ubjects for any given cognitive function. The increased variability within and (particularly) between individuals highlights the potential danger of generalizing from case studies. A mismatch therefore remain s between anecdotal reports describing generalized cognitive slowing, attention and memory problems during missions and the experimental e vidence supporting such deficits. Since a major justification for man ned spaceflight rests with the cognitive flexibility of humans, addit ional studies and further analysis of existing operational data appea rs warranted.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Strangman, Gary
(Harvard Medical School Boston, MA, United States)
Bevan, Gary
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2012
Subject Category
Behavioral Sciences
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association
Location: Chicago, IL
Country: United States
Start Date: May 12, 2013
End Date: May 16, 2013
Sponsors: Aerospace Medical Association
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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