Broadcast 1464 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

21 Nov 2010 Dr. Valentina Dilda, Dr. Steven Moore
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Guests: Dr. Steven Moore, Dr. Valentina Dilda. Topic: Electrical trickery on the brain to induce realistic spaceflight effects and why this is so important. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. We welcomed Dr. Steven Moore and Dr. Valentina Dilda, researchers with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) regarding their Galvanic vestibular stimulation research on the brain to induce realistic spaceflight effects. You can read the official NSBRI press release on the experiments and findings at www.nsbri.org/newsflash/indivArticle.asp?id=454&articleID=133. In our first segment, Dr. Moore described a major problem in that 20% of all Space Shuttle landings are outside the touchdown parameters for the vehicle. It is believed that the vestibular system may be adversely impacted by spaceflight so the two doctors developed a way to electrically stimulate the brain to induce realistic spaceflight effects within the vestibular system. In talking about what the effects were like, our guests said it was described by one of the volunteers as a "two martini sensation!" Dr. Dilda reported a test group of 60 subjects not prone to motion sickness. When asked if there were gender differences, Dr. Dilda did report them but said that they were statistically insignificant. Listen to what she said about the findings of their tests. 31 was the average age with test subjects ranging from 20-55 years of age. Also, only about 10% in total stopped the experiments. Dr. Moore described the hardware used for the test as it was very portable. They even walked around a shopping center with it but they did not press their luck and try going through TSA airport screening wearing the electrodes. Near the end of this segment, we asked about mitigation techniques and remedies to the problems being researched. So far, these issues remain challenges. In the second segment, our guests talked about running the experiments on parabolic zero gravity flights but said they were disappointed with the results in that there was not much of a difference. Another question arose about countermeasures but as you will hear, they don't exist and there are not yet a series of flight protocols that can minimize the effects that were being addressed by this research. We also talked about the astronaut and research subject feedback from the experiments and the posturing swaying front to back that results from the vestibular issues. Later in the segment, the issue of these effects in lower gravity came up and our guests had much to say about this issue, artificial gravity, and more. They also said that the lack of available data on these is issues was a problem for this type of research. In our last segment, we talked about the cognitive effects and put them into the overall context of challenges to be resolved for human spaceflight missions. The major issue centers around safety as the sensory motor system is impacted by these effects. Toward the end of the program, I asked Dr. Moore about the competitive nature of funding for these types of grants and if this research would be impacted by the retiring of the shuttle and little or seldom access to the ISS. Don't miss what he had to say about this issue. He talked about their being no goals and that we would be extremely limited by the limitation on up mass to the ISS. A concern that we have lost our spark was expressed at the end of this program. For questions or comments for Dr. Dilda or Dr. Moore, please post them on the blog. You can also send them to me at drspace@thespaceshow.com and to the NSBRI contact person, Brad Thomas at rbthomas@bcm.edu.

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