Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researching a workout device to help keep the balance system in shape


Astronauts on extended missions go into space with a spring in their step but rarely return from the International Space Station (ISS) walking steady.

“We want to develop a training device to counter the effects while in space and help astronauts recover more quickly upon return to Earth,” said Dr. Jacob Bloomberg, a researcher on the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s (NSBRI) neurovestibular adaptation team.

Returning astronauts walk with an unstable gait and wide stance and can take almost two weeks to fully recover their footing after a long-duration flight on the ISS. A new treadmill training system being researched could help shorten or remove post-flight balance problems and eventually help elderly patients and others with similar problems.

Bloomberg and his team are using a new, integrated research protocol to discover and test ways to counter the ill effects of space flight on the balance and walking systems. The goal of the research is to develop an in-flight treadmill training system that will improve the brain’s ability to readapt to gravity environments whether it is a return to Earth or a landing on Mars. In addition to developing training programs, Bloomberg is working on better ways to evaluate balance and walking function in returning astronauts.

“Rather than study individual systems in isolation we’re looking at how multiple systems interact and adapt during space flight to cause balance problems,” said Bloomberg, senior research scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We are working to understand how multiple, interdependent full-body sensory-motor systems are integrated to produce a complex behavior like walking.”

A person’s performance on a unique series of integrated tests – an obstacle course, a treadmill and visual acuity test – will help the researchers develop solutions to not only balance and mobility, but also eye coordination. These tests will serve to evaluate the effectiveness of in-flight interventions designed to reduce the negative effects of space flight on post-flight balance and walking function.

During testing, subjects walk on a treadmill while head, eye and body movements are recorded with a video-based motion capture system. At the same time, other sensors record body accelerations and the vertical forces that occur during each foot-fall; all this while subjects identify symbols on a computer screen to measure visual acuity. With this unique set-up, Bloomberg and his group can determine how the nervous system responds and adapts to different alterations in sensory input during walking. To complement the treadmill test, the obstacle course serves to help understand the practical implications of sensory-motor changes that lead to post-flight walking disturbances.

“This work will motivate the next generation of treadmill devices used on the International Space Station. While astronauts are training to maintain aerobic capacity and muscle strength, they will also be training their brains to readapt to a gravity environment,” Bloomberg said. “Everyone is told they need to exercise to maintain their heart and muscles, but rarely do people train to keep their balance system in shape.”

Further development of these testing protocols will not only help develop better tools to diagnose problems for elderly patients and others with balance problems, but may also help train them to overcome these problems.


The NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The Institute’s research and education projects take place at more than 70 institutions across the United States.

Liesl Owens | NSBRI
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Scientists invented method of catching bacteria with 'photonic hook'

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Next Generation Cryptography

20.03.2018 | Information Technology

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>