University of Calgary and CSA to study neurological conditions of astronauts on ISS


The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has partnered with the University of Calgary to conduct a new experiment to study how long-duration missions neurologically affects astronauts.

The Wayfinding joint study will examine how reduced gravitational forces impact the astronauts' ability to find their way around during their stay in the International Space Station (ISS).

Scheduled to commence in 2018, Wayfinding will also help other people on Earth affected by neurological conditions and neural degeneration related to ageing.

Results of the study could further contribute to the treatment of neurological disorders.

Starting his six-month mission to the ISS by 2018-2019, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will take part in the study.

“This knowledge will help us generate effective countermeasures to keep our astronauts healthy and safe during their long-term missions in space."

Wayfinding principal investigator and University of Calgary professor Dr Giuseppe Iaria said: "This study will give us the unique opportunity to investigate how the lack of gravity affects the complex neural networks responsible for our sense of direction.

“This knowledge will help us generate effective countermeasures to keep our astronauts healthy and safe during their long-term missions in space, and their subsequent lives on Earth.

“Moreover, our findings will provide a deeper understanding of a variety of neurological conditions in which getting lost is a prominent symptom.”

As part of Wayfinding, Dr Iaria and his associates will perform neuroimaging studies on astronauts before they leave for the ISS and upon their return to Earth.

The study will receive an investment of C$728,000 ($555,640) from CSA for a period of more than five years.


Image: Astronaut inside the International Space Station. Photo: courtesy of Nasa.