Archives of oto-rhino-laryngology

, Volume 244, Issue 3, pp 147–154 | Cite as

Effect of spaceflight on thresholds of perception of angular and linear motion

  • A. J. Benson
The Vestibular System in Weightlessness


Psychophysical studies of vestibular function have been carried out in order to study adaptation within the vestibular sensory system to the weightless environment of orbital spaceflight. No significant change in the threshold of detection of whole-body angular acceleration was found, either during flight or post-flight. Experiments involving the perception of whole-body linear acceleration have yielded somewhat inconsistent results, although the weight of evidence points to an elevation and increased variability of threshold in the first few days following spaceflight. Although a change in the excitability of the saccular and macular otoliths in microgravity cannot be excluded, it is more probable that this decreased sensitivity is a manifestation of a central adaptive mechanism, in which the “weighting” of gravi-receptor information is reduced. Enhancement of the ability to detect linear acceleration stimuli, exhibited by some astronauts in microgravity, may be a manifestation of heightened utilization of cutaneous rather than otolithic cues.

Key words

Sensory threshold Semicircular canals Otoliths Adaptation Weightlessness 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Benson
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation MedicineFarnboroughUK

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