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Exp Brain Res. 2014 Oct;232(10):3325-31. doi: 10.1007/s00221-014-4019-5. Epub 2014 Jul 1.

When neuroscience gets wet and hardcore: neurocognitive markers obtained during whole body water immersion.

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Institute of Movement and Neurosciences, German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf 6, 50933, Cologne, Germany,


Neutral buoyancy facilities are used to prepare astronauts and cosmonauts for extra vehicular activities e.g. on-board of the International Space Station. While previous studies indicated a decrease in cognitive performance in an under water setting, they have only provided behavioural data. This study aimed to review whether recording of electro cortical activity by the use of electroencephalography (EEG) is possible in an under water setting and if so, to identify the influence of water immersion at a depth of 4 m on neurocognitive markers. Ten male subjects performed a cognitive choice-reaction times (RT) task that progressed through five levels of increasing difficulty on land and when submerged 4 m under water. N200 latency and amplitude in the occipital and frontal areas were measured, and baseline cortical activity was measured during rest in both conditions. Neither RT nor amplitude or latency of the N200 showed any significant changes between the land and the under water conditions. Also theta, alpha and beta frequencies showed no differences between the two conditions. The data provided in this study demonstrate the possibility of recording EEG even under the extreme conditions of full body water immersion. The lack of cognitive impairment in RT and N200 in the under water condition may be explained by the fact that only experienced divers participated in the study. As a proof of principle, this study generates many new experimental possibilities that will improve our understanding of cognitive processes under water.

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