“On exploration missions, quick, self tests could allow astronauts to assess how they are functioning from a cognitive performance standpoint as it relates to fatigue and stress,” said David F. Dinges, Ph.D., team leader of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors Team. “In this mission, we’ll gather data to help us refine the self tests and develop an interface component that provides immediate feedback to the user.”
Dinges and his colleagues are gathering data during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 13 project which takes place in Aquarius, the world’s only underwater research habitat. Located near Key Largo, Fla., and 62 feet below the surface, Aquarius is owned and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). The mission runs Aug. 6 to 15.
“The NEEMO environment is similar to lunar and other exploration missions in many respects. There is isolation, confinement to a small habitat and work area, the need to work together as a team, extravehicular activities, and no immediate rescue in the event of an emergency,” said Dinges, a professor in psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and leader of the NSBRI portion of the NEEMO projects.Another similarity to space is that the aquanauts must perform tasks requiring high performance levels. During NEEMO 13, they will perform simulated moon walks on the ocean floor involving sample collection and construction of a communications tower.
Dinges’ project uses several methods to gather data that will be used to assess the amount of fatigue and stress related to mission activities.
“The crew takes a three-minute test that measures vigilance, attention and psychomotor speed. We’ve learned from laboratory experiments that the test is sensitive to fatigue and other factors that impact a person’s ability to pay attention to a task and respond quickly,” Dinges said. “The test is taken at least four times a day – on waking, before and after simulated moon walks, dives and habitat experiments, and before bed.”
The Psychomotor Vigilance Test, or PVT, was developed through Dinges’ work with NSBRI, NASA, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. The user watches for a signal and responds when it appears, allowing the measurement of reaction times.
The crew also wears a wristwatch-sized device, called an Actiwatch®, that measures the sleep and wake cycle. The aquanauts provide saliva at various times each day including when they awake, before and after performing experiments and simulated moon walks, and before going to bed.
“With the saliva samples, we measure cortisol, a hormone that provides information on their stress levels,” Dinges said. “Cortisol is normally high in the morning; it’s a means of getting you going each day. If we see elevated cortisol after performing a high-level task, it would indicate some type of stress occurred during the activity.”
The crew fills out brief questionnaires about how hard they are working, so researchers can get a sense of their physical and mental workload. Another questionnaire focuses on mood and interpersonal interactions between the crew as well as with mission control personnel.
Dinges collected similar data during NEEMO 9 in April 2006 and NEEMO 12 in May 2007. The data from NEEMO 9, 12 and 13 will be integrated with other lab data, so that the next version of the vigilance test can be developed.
“Day in and day out, long-duration astronauts are never out of the work environment. With the type of complex, high-performance demands of the job, it will be helpful for individuals to quickly assess how they are doing relative to fatigue and stress,” Dinges said. “The test would give immediate feedback and solutions, if needed, to counter whatever is affecting performance. That might be to get some sleep, take motion sickness medicine, or any number of things.”
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The Institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at more than 70 institutions across the United States.
Laser activated gold pyramids could deliver drugs, DNA into cells without harm
24.03.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
What does congenital Zika syndrome look like?
24.03.2017 | University of California - San Diego
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy