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Exercise Effects on Central Nervous System Function and Structure in Bed Rest (Postdoctoral Fellowship) (NCC958PF04101)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Sensorimotor Adaptation Team
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Space flight has been associated with problems with gait, balance, and cognition. Preventing these dysfunctions is important in terms of crew health and success of space missions. These adverse effects of space flight likely have a central nervous system component considering that microgravity in space causes increased intracranial pressure and is associated with stress, sleep loss, and altered sensory inputs, all of which could affect the brain. Long-duration bed rest has proven to be a good model to study the effects of microgravity on motor performance. Two 70-days bed rest studies with pre, during, and post assessments that were conducted in NASA’s Flight Analog Program focused on: 1) cognition, sensorimotor performance, and the brain using behavioral tests and MRI; and 2) how exercise might counteract microgravity-induced changes in physical fitness, by comparing exercise and control subjects on fitness outcome measures. These studies were conducted simultaneously using the same subjects. Preliminary results indicated that bed rest affects motor function and brain structure, and that exercise partially reduces these effects. This corroborates with multiple studies showing that aerobic exercise has a positive effect on cognition and brain structure. The existing literature and preliminary results support the idea that exercise has a preventive and/or counteractive effect on microgravity-induced sensorimotor, cognitive, and brain functional and structural changes. This research projects aimed to combine data of the two above-described bed rest studies to formally investigate exercise as preventive/countermeasure for microgravity-induced cognitive, sensorimotor, brain functional and structural changes.

The goal of the study was to determine whether exercise may serve as a preventive measure and/or countermeasure to the adverse effects of microgravity on the central nervous system using a microgravity analog design. This overarching goal was subdivided into four sub-aims: 1) Investigate exercise as a preventive and/or countermeasure to mitigate the effects of microgravity on motor behavior and cognition; 2) Investigate exercise as a preventive and/or countermeasure to mitigate the effects of microgravity on central nervous system (CNS) plasticity and function objectified with structural and functional neuroimaging techniques; 3) Investigate the potentially mediating role of exercise on the relationship between changes in behavior and CNS plasticity and function; and 4) Identify if physical health markers on the single subject level can predict behavioral adaptability to a microgravity environment.

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Koppelmans V, Scott JM, Downs ME, Cassady KE, Yuan P, Pasternak O, Wood SJ, De Dios YE, Gadd NE, Kofman I, Riascos R, Reuter-Lorenz PA, Bloomberg JJ, Mulavara AP, Ploutz-Snyder LL, and Seidler RD. Exercise effects on bed rest-induced brain changes. PLoS One. 2018. October 11;13(10):e0205515. [DOI]

Yuan P, Koppelmans V, Reuter-Lorenz P, De Dios Y, Gadd N, Wood S, Riascos R, Kofman I, Bloomberg J, Mulavara A, and Seidler R. Vestibular brain changes within 70 days of head down bed rest. Human Brain Mapping. 2018. July; 39(7):2753-63. [DOI]

Koppelmans V, Bloomberg JJ, De Dios YE, Wood SJ, Reuter-Lorenz PA, Kofman IS, Riascos R, Mulavara AP, and Seidler RD. Brain plasticity and sensorimotor deterioration as a function of 70 days head down tilt bed rest. PLoS One. 2017. August 2;12(8):e0182236. [DOI]

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Psychomotor performance

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. No data sets are available for this experiment. Please Contact LSDA if you know of available data for this investigation.

Behavioral assessment
Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP)
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
Functional mobility test (FMT)
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2014 NSBRI-RFA-14-02