This paper describes the activities for utilization and control of ELITE S2 on board the International Space Station (ISS). ELITE S2 is a payload of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for quantitative human movement analysis in weightlessness. Within the frame of a bilateral agreement with NASA, ASI has funded a number of facilities, enabling different scientific experiments on board the ISS. ELITE S2 has been developed by the ASI contractor Kayser Italia, delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in 2006 for pre-flight processing, launched in 2007 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-118), integrated in the U.S. lab and used during the Increments 16 and 17 through 2008. The ELITE S2 flight segment comprises equipment mounted into an Express Rack and a number of stowed items to be deployed for experiment performance (video cameras and accessories). The ground segment consists in a User Support Operations Center (based at Kayser Italia) enabling real-time payload control and a number of User Home Bases (located at the ASI and PIs premises), for the scientific assessment of the experiment performance. Two scientific protocols on reaching and cognitive processing have been successfully performed in five sessions involving two ISS crewmembers: IMAGINE 2 and MOVE.
Research Containing: Motor behavior
Understanding the effects of spaceflight on head–trunk coordination during walking and obstacle avoidance
Prolonged exposure to spaceflight conditions results in a battery of physiological changes, some of which contribute to sensorimotor and neurovestibular deficits. Upon return to Earth, functional performance changes are tested using the Functional Task Test (FTT), which includes an obstacle course to observe post-flight balance and postural stability, specifically during turning. The goal of this study was to quantify changes in movement strategies during turning events by observing the latency between head-and-trunk coordinated movements. It was hypothesized that subjects experiencing neurovestibular adaptations would exhibit head-to-trunk locking (‘en bloc’ movement) during turning, exhibited by a decrease in latency between head and trunk movement. FTT data samples were collected from 13 ISS astronauts and 26 male 70-day head down tilt bed rest subjects, including bed rest controls (10 BRC) and bed rest exercisers (16 BRE). Samples were analyzed three times pre-exposure, immediately post-exposure (0 or 1-day post) and 2–3 times during recovery from the unloading environment. Two 3D inertial measurements units (XSens MTx) were attached to subjects, one on the head and one on the upper back. This study focused primarily on the yaw movements about the subject’s center of rotation. Time differences (latency) between head and trunk movement were averaged across a slalom obstacle portion, consisting of three turns (approximately three 601 turns). All participants were grouped as ‘decreaser’ or ‘increaser’, relating to their change in head-to-trunk movement latency between pre- and post-environmental adaptation measures. Spaceflight unloading (ISS) showed a bimodal response between the ‘increaser’ and ‘decreaser’ group, while both bed rest control (BRC) and bed rest exercise (BRE) populations showed increased preference towards a ‘decreaser’ categorization, displaying greater head–trunk locking. It is clear that changes in movement strategies are adopted during exposure to an unloading environment. These results further the under- standing of vestibular–somatosensory convergence and support the use of bed rest as an exclusionary model to better understand sensorimotor changes in spaceflight.
To date, hampered physiological function after exposure to microgravity has been primarily attributed to deprived peripheral neuro-sensory systems. For the first time, this study elucidates alterations in human brain function after long-duration spaceflight. More specifically, we found significant differences in resting-state functional connectivity between motor cortex and cerebellum, as well as changes within the default mode network. In addition, the cosmonaut showed changes in the supplementary motor areas during a motor imagery task. These results highlight the underlying neural basis for the observed physiological deconditioning due to spaceflight and are relevant for future interplanetary missions and vestibular patients.