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Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Radiation biology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Long-duration space flights result in increased cosmic radiation exposure to astronauts. The ALTEA hardware is designed to measure particle radiation in the space environment, and determine how this radiation impacts the central nervous system (CNS) of the crew. The experiment is comprised of a helmet-shaped device holding 6 silicon particle detectors designed to measure cosmic radiation passing through the brain. The detectors measure the trajectory, energy, and species of individual ionizing particles. At the same time an electroencephalograph (EEG) will measure the brain activity of the crewmember to determine if radiation strikes cause changes in the electrophysiology of the brain in real time.

A common effect of radiation exposure that is reported by astronauts is the perception of light flashes. The actual mechanism of these light flashes is not understood. Earlier studies on the Mir space station suggest that both heavy nuclei and protons trigger abnormal CNS responses. (Casolino et al, 2003). A Visual Stimulator tests the astronaut's overall visual system, including dark adaptation stimuli to monitor visual status. While not manned, the ALTEA hardware provides a continuous measure of the cosmic radiation in the ISS U.S. Laboratory, Destiny. The neurophysiological effects of cosmic radiation in long term space travel have never been explored with the depth of the ALTEA experiment. Data collected will help quantify risks to astronauts on future long-duration space missions and propose optimized countermeasures.

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Di Fino L, Casolino M, De Santis C, Larosa M, La Tessa C, Narici L, Picozza P, Zaconte V. Heavy-ion anisotropy measured by ALTEA in the International Space Station. Radia Res 2011;176(3):397-406.[]

La Tessa C, Di Fino L, Larosa M, Narici L, Picozza P, Zaconte V. Estimate of the Space Station Shielding Thickness at a USLab Site Using ALTEA Measurements and Fragmentation Cross Sections. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms. 2009; 267(9): 3383-3387.

Larosa M, Casolino M, De Santis C, Di Fino L, La Tessa C, Narici L, Picozza P, Rinaldi A, Zaconte V. Ion Rates in the International Space Station During the December 2006 Solar Particle Event. Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics. 2011; 38(9).

Narici L, Belli F, Bidoli V, Casolino M, De Pascale MP, Di Fino L, Furano G, Modena I, Morselli A, Picozza P, Reali E, Rinaldi A, Ruggieri D, Sparvoli R, Zaconte V, Sannita WG., Carozzo S, Licoccia S, Romagnoli P, Traversa E, Cotronei V, Vazquez M, Miller J, Salnitskii VP, Shevchenko OI, Petrov V, Trukhanov KA, Galper A, Khodarovich A, Korotkov M, Popov A, Vavilov N, Avdeev S, Boezio M, Bonvicini W, Vacchi A, Zampa N, Mazzenga G, Ricci M, Spillantini P, Castellini G, Vittori R, Carlson P, Fuglesang C, Schardt D. The ALTEA/ALTEINO projects: studying functional effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation. Advances in Space Research. 2004; 33(8): 1352 - 1357.[]

Zaconte V, Casolino M, Di Fino L, La Tessa C, Larosa M, Narici L, Picozza P. High Energy Radiation Fluences in the ISS-USLab: Ion Discrimination and Particle Abundances. Radiation Measurements. 2010; 45: 168–172.

Cosmic radiation
Dark adaptation
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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.

Angular particle flux
Angular radiation distribution
Cosmic radiation
Ionizing particle, energy
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 13 03/22/2006 09/24/2006 186 days
Expedition 14 09/18/2006 04/21/2007 215 days
Expedition 15 04/07/2007 10/21/2007 197 days

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 Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Italian Space Agency (ASI)