About the Motion Laboratory

    Following their return to Earth, astronauts experience disturbances in their ability to walk and maintain postural stability due to neural adaptation to the microgravity conditions of spaceflight. These changes can pose risks to crew safety and mission objectives if nominal or emergency vehicle egress is required immediately following long-duration spaceflight. Current research in the Motion Laboratory is focused on understanding how exposure to space flight produces post flight disturbances in balance and gait control and developing training programs that will facilitate recovery of mobility after long-duration spaceflight.
    Fully instrumented subject walking on the treadmill during testing Fully instrumented subject walking on the treadmill during testing

    The training program currently being developed is based on the concept of adaptive generalization. During this type of training the subject gains experience producing the appropriate adaptive behavior under a variety of sensory conditions and balance challenges. As a result of this training a subject learns to solve a class of balance and walking problems, rather than producing a single solution to one problem. Therefore, the subject gains the ability to "learn to learn" under a variety of conditions that challenge the balance and walking control systems. Through a series of flight and ground-based studies we will develop a countermeasure built around in-flight treadmill exercise activities. By manipulating the sensory conditions of exercise (by varying visual flow patterns, body load and support surface stability during walking) this training regimen will systematically and repeatedly promote adaptive change in walking performance improving the ability of the astronaut to adapt to a novel gravity environment. It is anticipated that this training regimen will facilitate neural adaptation to unit (Earth) and partial (Mars) gravity after long-duration spaceflight.
    Subject walking on a treadmill while watching a moving virtual scene during a balance and gait training session Subject walking on a treadmill while watching a moving virtual scene during a balance and gait training session

    The Neuroscience Motion Laboratory has developed an integrated data acquisition system that allows the investigation of the interaction and synergies of the various sub-systems used to produce coordinated movement strategies during locomotion. Simultaneous collection of the many variables necessary to perform a comprehensive investigation of these locomotor strategies after space flight involves the integration of multiple data acquisition systems. We have developed a data acquisition strategy that allows us to obtain continuous measurements of various kinematic and kinetic variables during protocols involving over ground and treadmill locomotion.

    During various locomotion protocols the following data can be collected: 1) three-dimensional full-body segmental kinematics using video-based motion analysis, 2) triaxial shank and head accelerations, 3) surface electromyography (EMG) from the neck, trunk, and lower limbs, 4) heel-strike and toe-off events using footswitches, 5) ground-reaction forces during locomotion, and 6) dynamic visual acuity measures during treadmill walking. The following equipment is integrated to form the data acquisition and testing system: 1) a six camera, high resolution video motion system (Motion Analysis Corp. Santa Rosa, CA), 2) triaxial accelerometers (Entran Sensors & Electronics Fairfield, NJ), 3) a seven-channel pre-amplified surface EMG amplifier system (Therapeutics Unlimited, Davenport, IA), 4) pressure-activated footswitches (MotionLab Systems Inc. Baton Rouge LA), 5) a Biomobile force plate (Kistler Instruments, Amherst, NY), 6) a motor-driven instrumented treadmill (Kistler Instrument Corp., Amherst, NY) and 8) a treadmill safety harness system (Safe Stress Inc.). The data are simultaneously collected using commercially available data acquisition software and A/D boards on three PCs. In addition, support surface variation used for gait training can be produced by placing a treadmill on an available electrically powered 6 degree of freedom motion base (Moog, East Aurora, New York).