The Journal of Physiological Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 271–281 | Cite as

Adaptation to microgravity, deconditioning, and countermeasures

  • Kunihiko TanakaEmail author
  • Naoki Nishimura
  • Yasuaki Kawai


Humans are generally in standing or sitting positions on Earth during the day. The musculoskeletal system supports these positions and also allows motion. Gravity acting in the longitudinal direction of the body generates a hydrostatic pressure difference and induces footward fluid shift. The vestibular system senses the gravity of the body and reflexively controls the organs. During spaceflight or exposure to microgravity, the load on the musculoskeletal system and hydrostatic pressure difference is diminished. Thus, the skeletal muscle, particularly in the lower limbs, is atrophied, and bone minerals are lost via urinary excretion. In addition, the heart is atrophied, and the plasma volume is decreased, which may induce orthostatic intolerance. Vestibular-related control also declines; in particular, the otolith organs are more susceptible to exposure to microgravity than the semicircular canals. Using an advanced resistive exercise device with administration of bisphosphonate is an effective countermeasure against bone deconditioning. However, atrophy of skeletal muscle and the heart has not been completely prevented. Further ingenuity is needed in designing countermeasures for muscular, cardiovascular, and vestibular dysfunctions.


Spaceflight Gravity Atrophy Bone mineral density Hydrostatic pressure Orthostatic intolerance Bisphosphonate 


Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© The Physiological Society of Japan and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Health and MedicineGifu University of Medical ScienceSekiJapan
  2. 2.Department of Physiology, Faculty of MedicineAichi Medical SchoolNagakuteJapan
  3. 3.Division of Adaptation Physiology, Faculty of MedicineTottori UniversityYonagoJapan

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