This study concentrates on assessing the efficacy of physical exercise while using a cycle ergometer combined with an interactive virtual environment, i.e. Hybrid Training, as a countermeasure for augmenting sensory stimulation during long-duration space missions. This countermeasure will combine validated tools and virtual reality (VR) technologies in a new way to reveal the full potential of Hybrid Training, and take into account (a) key needs that fulfill sensory stimulation, (b) “hedonic adaptation”, i.e. a reduced affective response to stimuli with continued or repeated exposure, (c) delivery schedule, and (d) size, mass and volume requirements, and (e) reasonable cost. The system basically consists of a cycle ergometer, a human computer interaction (HCI) interface, and a visual display. The ergometer will be linked via Bluetooth to the HCI and the visual display consisting of a touchpad or alternatively a head-mounted VR system plus a personal computer (PC). In addition, the ergometer is equipped with contact electrodes for logging heart rate as an additional indicator of exercise intensity (as well as haptic feedback). Due to its web-based interface, the system also promotes real-time monitoring of comprehensive metrics for each training session, and provides an easy reporting tool for individuals (feedback to crewmembers including training history). The research has the specific aims of investigating the effect of Hybrid Training on:
- Brain structure and function,
- Cognitive performance,
- Biochemical markers of stress and neuroplasticity,
- Mood, depression, and subjective assessments of workload, stress, sleep quality, tiredness, sickness, and conflicts,
- Sleep duration and sleep-wake rhythms using continuously wrist-worn actigraphy,
- Heart rate, heart rate variability, and sleep structure using monthly 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements, and
- Crew cohesion and team structure (pending crew consent).
The main aim of the study is to assess the effect of Hybrid Training on changes in brain structure and function as well as cognitive performance in subjects during two 1-year Antarctic winter-over missions at Neumayer station and compare these data to data collected in previous Neumayer crews, other Antarctic stations, space analog environments, and the International Space Station (ISS)
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Investigators plan to study a crew in Antarctic winter-over missions in Neumayer station. Both immediate and long-term benefits of Hybrid Training will be investigated. Each Neumayer winter-over crew consists of nine subjects. Investigators intend to investigate two consecutive winter-overs (2017 and 2018), and will sample data in a maximum of 18 subjects. Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be performed on Neumayer crewmembers about three months before the winter-over during a crew briefing at the Center for Space Medicine Berlin at Charité, about two months after the winter-over, and again about six months after the winter-over. During the winter-over mission, investigators will continuously record wrist-actigraphy and proximity (the latter only if the crew consents) information to monitor changes in sleep-wake behavior and crew cohesion with time-in-mission. Data will be downloaded from the actigraphs every other week. On a monthly basis, crewmembers will perform cognitive testing via the Cognition test battery, the Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT-B), and a virtual maze. In addition they will record a 24-hour ECG as an objective measure of workload and sleep continuity, and will fill-out four longer surveys. Investigators will also assess biochemical markers of stress and neuroplasticity via blood and saliva samples.
This study is in progress. Results will be available at a later date.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
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Crew cohesion and structure
Heart rate variability
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
Interleukin 1 (IL-1)
Interleukin 6 (IL-6)
Sleep wake rhythms
Social desirability bias
Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa)
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health
and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration.
Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity,
and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors,
and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify
the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific
Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.
The Human Research Roadmap is located at: https://humanresearchroadmap.nasa.gov/
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for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.