NEUROSPAT experiment , for understanding the brain's electrical activity in microgravity

Date: On going
Coordinator:
Research domain: Physiology

Purpose

The Neurospat experiment investigates the effect of a microgravity environment on the dynamics of the brain’s overall electrical activity (measured by electroencephalogram or EEG) underlying the spatial cognition process, the detection and processing of new or unexpected information and sensorimotor integration.
The changes in the spatial orientation and perception of astronauts during space flight are measured not only by EEG readings taken while subjects are carrying out various series of visual-motor tasks, but also by other neuro-physiological measurements such as EMG, ECG and EOG, as well as by behavioural parameters (speed and accuracy).

EEG: electroencephalogram, for measuring overall electrical activity in the brain.
EMG: electromyogram, for measuring electrical activity in the muscles.
ECG: electrocardiogram, for measuring electrical activity in the heart.
EOG: electro-oculogram, for measuring electrical activity in the eye.

 
In addition, the experimental protocol focuses on changes to the working of the brain’s frontal lobe, well known for its role in organising movement and particularly sensitive to stress factors such as fatigue, lack of sleep and hypoxia.
Hypoxia: state of lack of oxygen either in certain tissues or in the entire organism
 
Two teams of European scientists are involved in the Neurospat experiment:

  • Professor Guy Cheron’s team at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Movement Biomechanics, Brussels Free University. Website: http://www.cheron.be/
  • Professor Lazslo Balazs’s team at the Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Website: http://www.cogpsyphy.hu/

 

Operational Concept

To allow comparison between on-ground and in-flight readings, astronauts must undergo several training sessions in visual-motor tasks to minimise the learning effect (i.e. the time needed to learn how to perform the tasks) before starting the scientific measurements.
Three sets of measurements must be taken three months, two months and one month before liftoff.
In space, one set of measurements is taken between the fifth and fifteenth day of the flight. A second set is taken later, once the subject has become acclimatised to the microgravity environment, on about the sixtieth day.
Once back on Earth, the subject undergoes four more measurement sessions, the first two days after landing, one on about the eighth day and two more after fifteen days.
Interface
Aboard the ISS, Neurospat activities take place in the European Columbus science module. The Flight Control Team (FCT) based in Munich supervises the European activities in direct liaison with the CADMOS operational centre, which is responsible for the experiment. The scientific teams are invited to CADMOS to follow the operations.
 

Equipment used

The Neurospat experiment uses the European Physiology Module (EPM), and the scientific Multi-Electrodes Encephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM).
To isolate the subject from the surrounding environment, it uses a mask restricting the subject’s field of vision to a disk on the screen of a laptop computer, where scientific stimuli are displayed.
 

Status of experiment and data

The experiment is ongoing. The data are archived at CADMOS.

 

Further information

Find more information on the projects run by CADMOS on the CNES website: www.cnes.fr