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Changes in Baroreceptor Reflex Function After Space Flight (DSO 601)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Cardiovascular physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

The carotid baroreceptors, which are located in the neck, monitor the blood pressure and alter the activity in the autonomic nervous system to adjust the heart rate (by means of the vagus nerve) and peripheral resistance (by means of the sympathetic nervous system), so that a normal blood pressure is maintained. Disruption of this autonomic control may be responsible, at least in part, for the orthostatic intolerance that astronauts frequently experience after space flight. This study was designed to investigate both the vagal and sympathetic aspects of the carotid baroreceptor reflex response. Its specific objectives were to evaluate the function of the carotid baroreceptor reflex before and after space flight, to measure resting plasma levels of catecholamines (neurotransmitters of the sympathetic nervous system), and to perform power spectral analyses of variability in the interval between R waves on the electrocardiogram (the R-R interval).

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Charles JB, Fritsch-Yelle JM, Whitson PA, Wood ML, Brown TE, Fortner GW. Cardiovascular deconditioning. In: Sawin CF, Taylor GR, Smith WL, editors. Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project final report 1989-1995. Houston: NASA Johnson Space Center, 1999:1-1--1-19.

Eckberg DL, Fritsch JM. Human autonomic responses to actual and simulated weightlessness. J Clin Pharmacol 1991;31:951-4.[]

Fritsch JM, Charles JB, Bennett BS, Jones MM, Eckberg DL. Short-duration spaceflight impairs human carotid baroreceptor-cardiac reflex responses. J Appl Physiol 1992;73:664-71.

Fritsch-Yelle JM, Charles JB, Jones MM, Beightol LA, Eckberg DL. Spaceflight alters autonomic regulation of arterial pressure in humans. J Appl Physiol 1994;77:1776-83.[]

Autonomic nervous system
Blood pressure
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
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Blood pressure
Cardiac reflex response
Carotid baroreceptor
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
STS-32 01/09/1990 01/20/1990 11 days
STS-35 12/02/1990 12/11/1990 9 days
STS-39 04/28/1991 05/06/1991 8 days
STS-40 06/05/1991 06/14/1991 9 days
STS-41 10/06/1990 10/10/1990 4 days
STS-43 08/02/1991 08/11/1991 9 days

Additional Information
Other Key People
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)