Experiments executed on the upper limb are assuming increasing significance in the frame of the Human Physiology in space, for at least two reasons: the upper limb is the principal means of locomotion for the subject living in a space station; furthermore, fatigue can have a significant effect on the hand, for the ordinary work on board, and in particular for the extra-vehicular activities. The degradation of the performances affecting the muscular-skeletal apparatus can be easily recognized on the upper limb, by exerting specific scientific protocols, to be repeated through the permanence of the subject in weightlessness conditions. Another aspect relevant to the effect of microgravity on the upper limb is associated with the alteration of the motor control programs due to the different gravity factor, affecting not only the bio-mechanics of the subject, but in general all his/her psycho-physical conditions, induced by the totally different environment. Specific protocols on the upper limb can facilitate the studies on learning mechanisms for the motor control. The results of such experiments can be transferred to the Earth, useful for treatment of subjects with local traumas or diseases of the Central Nervous System.
Research Containing: Proprioception
We measured the effect of the orientation of the visual background on the perceptual upright (PU) under different levels of gravity. Brief periods of micro- and hypergravity conditions were created using two series of parabolic flights. Control measures were taken in the laboratory under normal gravity with subjects upright, right side down and supine. Participants viewed a polarized, natural scene presented at various orientations on a laptop viewed through a hood which occluded all other visual cues. Superimposed on the screen was a character the identity of which depended on its orientation. The orientations at which the character was maximally ambiguous were measured and the perceptual upright was defined as half way between these orientations. The visual background affected the orientation of the PU less when in microgravity than when upright in normal gravity and more when supine than when upright in normal gravity. A weighted vector sum model was used to quantify the relative influence of the orientations of gravity, vision and the body in determining the perceptual upright.