Artificial gravity--head movements during short-radius centrifugation: influence of cognitive effects.

Acta Astronautica 56(9-12):859 (2005) PMID 15835032

Short-radius centrifugation is a potential countermeasure against the effects of prolonged weightlessness. Head movements in a rotating environment, however, induce serious side effects: inappropriate vestibular ocular reflexes (VOR), body-tilt illusions and motion sickness induced by cross-coupled accelerations on a rotating platform. These are well predicted by a semicircular canal model. The present study investigates cognitive effects on the inappropriate VOR and the illusory sensations experienced by subjects rotating on a short-radius centrifuge (SRC). Subjects (N=19) were placed supine on a rotating horizontal bed with their head at the center of rotation. To investigate the extent to which they could control their sensations voluntarily, subjects were asked alternatively to "fight" (i.e. to try to resist and suppress) those sensations, or to "go" with (i.e. try to enhance or, at least, acquiesce in) them. The only significant effect on the VOR of this cognitive intervention was to diminish the time constant characterizing the decay of the nystagmus in subjects who had performed the "go" (rather than the "fight") trials. However, illusory sensations, as measured by reported subjective intensities, were significantly less intense during the "fight" than during the "go" trials. These measurements also verified an asymmetry in illusory sensation known from earlier experiments: the illusory sensations are greater when the head is rotated from right ear down (RED) to nose up (NU) posture than from NU to RED. The subjects habituated, modestly, to the rotation between their first and second sequences of trials, but showed no better (or worse) suppression of illusory sensations thereafter. No significant difference in habituation was observed between the "fight" and "go" trials. c2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.