Vestibular and Sensorimotor Dysfunction During Space Flight
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Purpose of Review
This paper aims to review dysfunctions in spatial orientation, cognition, gaze stabilization, and posture and locomotor control recently documented in astronauts during and immediately after both short- and long-duration space flights.
The spatial disorientation and cognitive deficits experienced by astronauts in microgravity are similar to those observed in individuals with vestibular disorders on Earth. After space flight, astronauts take more time to acquire visual targets while moving their head. Balance and locomotion control are impaired for approximately 15 days after long-duration space flight. Altered vestibular and proprioceptive inputs and changes in cortical sensory motor maps are presumed to be responsible for these deficits.
Illusions of motion, underestimation of distance, delay in acquiring visual targets, and impairments in locomotion are potentially dangerous during operation of the spacecraft, especially during long-duration missions involving transitions between gravitational levels, and during landing when accurate manual and locomotor control is critical.
KeywordsVestibular system Otoliths Microgravity Eye-head coordination Posture Locomotion Adaptation
This work was supported by NASA. The authors thank Kerry George for editing the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Millard Reschke and Gilles Clément declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Content
All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/national/institutional guidelines).
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