This study addressed the goal of developing tools to assess crew performance in real-time and evaluate countermeasures to mitigate the effects of fatigue, circadian misalignment, and work-overload. It is responsive to the critical need to identify how a range of cognitive functions of astronauts can be affected in space flight by fatigue alone, and its interaction with other risk factors and conditions such as elevated carbon dioxide, intracranial pressure, space fog, and countermeasures. This study aimed to deliver a comprehensive, software-based, neurocognitive toolkit (Cognition). By building on state-of-the-art neuropsychological test development, the toolkit permits evaluation of a full range of cognitive functions using brief (1-5 minutes), validated procedures. The tests included, but went beyond, what is currently measured by WinSCAT and the Reaction Self Test on the International Space Station (ISS). Importantly, the toolkit permitted rapid assessment of performance in cognitive, social-emotional, and sensorimotor domains.
This study had the following specific aims:
- Development of short-duration adaptive versions of neuropsychological tests for space flight.
- Establish learning curves for neuropsychological tests and validate sensitivity to sleep deprivation.
- Cognition software development and optimization for space flight.
- NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) field testing, astronaut learning curves, and astronaut norms for performance feedback algorithm development.
- Complete ISS feasibility study.
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The investigators completed data acquisition in the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) 14-day missions (16 crew in 1-week missions, and 16 crew in 2-week missions total). They also completed data acquisition in six Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) crewmembers in an 8-month mission. In addition, they collected Cognition data at three Antarctic research stations along with 13 control subjects at the German Space Agency to compare changes over mission-duration. Lastly, the investigators completed inflight data collection on seven astronauts. Two of them participated in the 12-month mission.
The findings support the feasibility of Cognition administration in astronauts and astronaut surrogate populations, on both the Windows and iPad platform, and in space analog environments. Participant feedback provided during debriefs (N>60) provided helpful insights for current and future improvements of the battery. Cognition is currently deployed in several key studies funded by NSBRI, NASA, and European Space Agency (ESA), and it was selected as a core component in the project to develop a standardized behavioral measures toolkit (BCM) for space flight operations, demonstrating the need for and the success of the Cognition battery.
Abe T, Mollicone D, Basner M, and Dinges DF. Sleepiness and safety: Where biology needs technology. Sleep and Biological Rhythms.
2014. April; 12(2):74-84. [
Basner M and Dinges DF. Lost in space: sleep. Lancet Neurology.
2014. September; 13(9):860-2. [
Basner M, Dinges DF, Mollicone DJ, Savelev I, Ecker AJ, Di Antonio A, Jones CW, Hyder EC, Kan K, Morukov BV, and Sutton JP. Psychological and behavioral changes during confinement in a 520-day simulated interplanetary mission to Mars. PLoS One.
2014. March 27; 9(3):e93298. [
Basner M, Rao H, Goel N, and Dinges DF. Sleep deprivation and neurobehavioral dynamics. Current Opinion in Neurobiology.
2013. October; 23(5):854-63. [
Erin E Flynn-Evans, Alan Kubey, Lorcan Walsh, Joseph M Ronda, Wei Wang, Kenneth P Wright Jr, Charles A Czeisler. Prevalence of sleep deficiency and use of hypnotic drugs in astronauts before, during, and after spaceflight: an observational study. Lancet Neurology. 2014. September; 13(9):904-912.
Goel N, Basner M, Rao H, Dinges DF. Circadian rhythms, sleep deprivation, and human performance. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science.
Minkel J, Moreta M, Muto J, Htaik O, Jones C, Basner M, and Dinges D. Sleep deprivation potentiates HPA axis stress reactivity in healthy adults. Health Psychology.
2014. May 12. [
Yi B, Rykova M, Feuerecker M, Jäger B, Ladinig C, Basner M, Hörl M, Matzel S, Kaufmann I, Strewe C, Nichiporuk I, Vassilieva G, Rinas K, Baatout S, Schelling G, Thiel M, Dinges DF, Morukov B, and Choukèr A. 520-d Isolation and confinement simulating a flight to Mars reveals heightened immune responses and alterations of leukocyte phenotype. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
2014. August; 40:203-10. [
Basner M, Savitt A, Moore TM, Port AM, McGuire S, Ecker AJ, Nasrini J, Mollicone J, Mott CM, McCann T, Dinges DF, and Gur RC. Development and validation of the Cognition test battery. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance.
2015. November; 86(11):942-52.
Lee G, Moore TM, Basner M, Nasrini J, Roalf DR, Ruparel K, Port AM, Dinges DF, and Gur RC. Age, sex, and repeated measures effects on NASA's "Cognition" test battery in STEM educated adults. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance.
2020. January 1;91(1):18-25. [DOI]
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.