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NSCOR for Evaluating Risk Factors and Biomarkers for Adaptation and Resilience to Spaceflight: Emotional Valence and Social Processes in ICC/ICE Environments (80NSSC17K0644)
Principal Investigators
Research Area:
Behavior and performance
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

NASA’s future long-duration exploration missions (LDEMs) will involve four to six individuals living and working in the environment of deep space for unprecedented durations. The focus of this study is on using the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) areas of positive valence (e.g., patience, tolerance), negative valence (e.g., irritability, anger), and social processes (e.g., affiliation, attachment, sensitivity to self and other teammates) in response to stressors associated with space flight. This study seeks to relate individual adaptation and resiliency on confined and extreme environments to identify behavioral and biological factors to predict/identify a crew that can successfully perform under extreme conditions in space.

Investigators will use four analogs which will define resilience to space conditions which will be used in selecting crew most likely to maintain human health and performance during prolonged exploration missions. This NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR) aims to use the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) as one of four analog facilities (3 human, 1 animal), in which to discover markers of vulnerability to individual behavioral health risks and team social processes in space flight. The other two human analogs used in the NSCOR are the University of Pennsylvania Isolation and Confinement Analog Research Unit for Spaceflight (ICARUS), an isolated, confined, extreme environment (ICC/ICE) and the Antarctic Neumayer Station III, which is a German research station of the Alfred-Wegener-Institute.

The fourth NSCOR analog involves animal research at Harvard Boston Children’s Hospital. This laboratory will provide a rodent model of the effects of confinement that will be used to inform human neuroimaging studies. This allows the research team to safely and ethically investigate the more specific molecular, cellular, and neural circuitry changes associated with living in ICC versus enriched sensory environments for “rodent- human equivalent” time-periods matching each of the two human ICC analog sites and the 14-month ICE analog.

This study has the following specific aims:

  1. Identify and quantify individual differences in adaptation and resilience, key threats to and promoters of mission relevant behavioral health and performance.
    Aim 1a. Perform a comprehensive literature review of the RDoC framework to identify the units of analysis (e.g., cells, etc.) of the individual risk factors most related to LDEMs and positive valence, negative valence, and social processes domains.
    Aim 1b. Identify how the risk factors within those three RDoC domains relate to performance outcomes, resiliency, and adaptation in LDEMs.
  2. Identify neural circuits and molecular/cellular mechanisms underlying adaptation and resilience in a rodent model using cross-species equivalency (i.e., mice exposed for “human” equivalent time).
  3. Encompasses the biological basis of social support to assess individual sociability and the neurobehavioral contributions to resiliency and/or adaptability of engaging positively in social interactions, tolerance, and awareness (e.g., affiliation, attachment).
  4. Identify how meaningful work mediates the relationship between risk factors, the valence and social process domains, and operational outcomes, as well as direct effects of meaningful work on performance.
  5. Encompasses the need to identify how positive and negative valence systems impact on psychological well-being and performance when confronted with the adverse conditions found in prolonged space flight.

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Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
HERA Campaign 5 02/15/2019 03/09/2020 Four 45 day missions
HERA Campaign 6 10/01/2021 In progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
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:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2016-2017 HERO NNJ16ZSA001N-Crew Health (FLAGSHIP, OMNIBUS).