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J Neurosci Res. 2000 Oct 15;62(2):169-76.

Artificial gravity as a countermeasure in long-duration space flight.

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Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory, Volen Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.
Brandeis U, Waltham, MA


Long-duration exposure to weightlessness results in bone demineralization, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, altered sensory-motor control, and central nervous system reorganizations. Exercise countermeasures and body loading methods so far employed have failed to prevent these changes. A human mission to Mars might last 2 or 3 years and without effective countermeasures could result in dangerous levels of bone and muscle loss. Artificial gravity generated by rotation of an entire space vehicle or of an inner chamber could be used to prevent structural changes. Some of the physical characteristics of rotating environments are outlined along with their implications for human performance. Artificial gravity is the centripetal force generated in a rotating vehicle and is proportional to the product of the square of angular velocity and the radius of rotation. Thus, for a particular g-level, there is a tradeoff between velocity of rotation and radius. Increased radius is vastly more expensive to achieve than velocity, so it is important to know the highest rotation rates to which humans can adapt. Early studies suggested that 3 rpm might be the upper limit because movement control and orientation were disrupted at higher velocities and motion sickness and chronic fatigue were persistent problems. Recent studies, however, are showing that, if the terminal velocity is achieved over a series of gradual steps and many body movements are made at each dwell velocity, then full adaptation of head, arm, and leg movements is possible. Rotation rates as high as 7.5-10 rpm are likely feasible. An important feature of the new studies is that they provide compelling evidence that equilibrium point theories of movement control are inadequate. The central principles of equilibrium point theories lead to the equifinality prediction, which is violated by movements made in rotating reference frames.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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