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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Sep;89(3):1224-31.

Invited review: gravitational biology of the neuromotor systems: a perspective to the next era.

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Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.
U CA, Los Angeles


Earth's gravity has had a significant impact on the designs of the neuromotor systems that have evolved. Early indications are that gravity also plays a key role in the ontogenesis of some of these design features. The purpose of the present review is not to assess and interpret a body of knowledge in the usual sense of a review but to look ahead, given some of the general concepts that have evolved and observations made to date, which can guide our future approach to gravitational biology. We are now approaching an era in gravitational biology during which well-controlled experiments can be conducted for sustained periods in a microgravity environment. Thus it is now possible to study in greater detail the role of gravity in phylogenesis and ontogenesis. Experiments can range from those conducted on the simplest levels of organization of the components that comprise the neuromotor system to those conducted on the whole organism. Generally, the impact of Earth's gravitational environment on living systems becomes more complex as the level of integration of the biological phenomenon of interest increases. Studies of the effects of gravitational vectors on neuromotor systems have and should continue to provide unique insight into these mechanisms that control and maintain neural control systems designed to function in Earth's gravitational environment. A number of examples are given of how a gravitational biology perspective can lead to a clearer understanding of neuromotor disorders. Furthermore, the technologies developed for spaceflight studies have contributed and should continue to contribute to studies of motor dysfunctions, such as spinal cord injury and stroke. Disorders associated with energy support and delivery systems and how these functions are altered by sedentary life styles at 1 G and by space travel in a microgravity environment are also discussed.

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