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Acta Astronaut. 1979 Oct;6(10):1259-72.

Space motion sickness.

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1
Medical Sciences Division, NASA-Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058, USA.

Abstract

Space motion sickness, presumably triggered by sudden entry into a weightless environment, occurred with unexpected frequency and severity among astronauts who flew the Skylab missions. Recovery from symptoms was complete within 3-5 days, and as revealed by the Skylab M131 Human Vestibular Function Experiment, all crewmembers were immune to experimentally induced motion sickness after mission day 8. This syndrome has been recognized as a possible threat to the early mission well-being and operational efficiency of at least some individuals who will fly space missions in the future. The causes of space motion sickness are not clearly understood, nor have satisfactory methods been identified to date for its prediction, prevention and treatment. In order to minimize the potential impact of this syndrome on Space Shuttle crew operations the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has organized a broad program of inter-disciplinary research involving a large number of scientists in the United States. Current research on the etiology of space motion sickness is based to a large extent on the so called sensory conflict theory. Investigations of the behavioral and neurophysiological consequences of intralabyrinthine, as well as intermodality sensory conflict are being performed. The work in this area is being influenced by the presumed alterations that occur in otolith behavior in weightlessness. In addition to sensory conflict, the possible relationship between observed cephalad shifts of body fluids in weightlessness and space motion sickness is being investigated. Research to date has failed to support the fluid shift theory. Research underway to identify reliable test methods for the prediction of susceptibility to space motion sickness on an individual basis includes attempts to (a) correlate susceptibility in different provocative environments; (b) correlate susceptibility with vestibular and non-vestibular response parameters, the latter including behavioral, hemodynamic and biochemical factors and (c) correlate susceptibility with rate of acquisition and length of retention of sensory adaptation. Controlled studies are also being performed during parabolic flight as a means of attempting to validate predictive tests for susceptibility to this syndrome. Research to develop new or improved countermeasures for space motion sickness is underway in two primary areas. One of these involves anti-motion sickness drugs. Significant achievements have been realized with regard to the identification of new highly efficacious drug combinations, dose levels and routes of administration. Although pronounced individual variations must be accounted for in selecting the optimum drug and dose level, combinations of promethazine plus ephedrine or scopolamine plus dexidrine are presently the drugs of choice. Work is also underway to identify side effects associated with anti-motion sickness drug use and to identify new drugs which may selectively modify activity in central neural pathways involved in motion sickness. In addition to research on drugs, efforts are being made to develop practical vestibular training methods. Variables which influence rate of acquisition of adaptation, length of retention of adaptation and transfer of protective adaptation to new environments are being evaluated. Also, included in this area is the use of biofeedback and autogenic therapy to train individuals to regulate autonomic responses associated with motion sickness. While valuable new knowledge is expected to evolve from these combined research programs, it is concluded that the final validation of predictive tests and countermeasures will require a series of controlled space flight experiments.

PMID:
11902170
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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