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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2010 Jul;81(7):625-31.

Diagnostic accuracy of dynamic posturography testing after short-duration spaceflight.

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK.



Astronauts face transient disruptions of sensorimotor functions after spaceflight. Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) testing has been used to document functional recovery; however, its objective value in return-to-duty decision-making has not been established. Therefore, we studied the diagnostic accuracy of CDP to determine the most effective test components for probing post-spaceflight sensorimotor deficits.


There were 11 first-time astronauts and 11 matched controls who were evaluated by CDP before and after spaceflight (controls did not fly). All CDP testing was conducted with eyes closed while standing on a computer-controlled force plate. Somatosensory influences were either unperturbed (stationary force plate) or altered (unstable force plate), and vestibular influences were either unperturbed (head erect) or altered by static (head pitched forward or back by 200) or dynamic (head pitched voluntarily in cadence with an auditory signal: +/- 20 degrees at 0.33 Hz) challenges. Using equilibrium (EQ) scores derived from peak A-P sway as the dependent measure, we determined the sensitivity and specificity of each test condition and then constructed receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curves to determine their diagnostic accuracies.


The greatest diagnostic accuracy was obtained from the test requiring the subject to make dynamic head movements while standing on an unstable force plate (94.9% sensitivity 96.6% specificity, area under ROC curve = 0.991). By contrast, the estimated ROC area for the standard clinical Romberg test (fixed support, head erect), which is often used to make postflight return-to-duty decisions, was 0.718.


We recommend that results from this test paradigm be considered during postflight return-to-duty decision-making.

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