Scientists from the Institute of biomedical problems of RAS have developed a device for the diagnosis of space motion sickness (CBD), which is faced by almost a third of people flying into space. Its symptoms appear almost immediately, as soon as a person gets into weightlessness. Constant nausea and vomiting, dizziness, weakness, as well as the appearance of all sorts of hallucinations (for example, a person feels a constant rotation) – all this is the result of a sensory conflict caused by the vestibular apparatus. The symptoms continue for several days until the brain adapts to the new conditions of gravity.
When returning from orbit of the Earth the person can re-emerge the symptoms of space motion sickness and will continue until, until the body re-adapted to normal gravity. We talked about one of the examples not so long ago.
The human predisposition to CBD is actually not such a terrible problem for the same ISS crews, since the long – term stay at the orbital station significantly exceeds the period of adaptation of the organism to the changed conditions. However, CBD can be a very serious problem when it comes to prospective human flights and landings to the moon or Mars. For example, according to observations of astronauts flying to the moon, some of them had CBD and in the case of landing on the satellite. At the same time, the symptoms of the disease can be so debilitating that they literally bring a person out of balance and do not allow him to rise to his feet without assistance.
Special medicines are currently used to suppress the symptoms of CBD. However, they are not a panacea. These drugs, as a rule, themselves have many side effects that reduce human performance in space.
The IBMP RAS believes that the introduction of special simulators capable of training the vestibular apparatus will allow to achieve an effective reduction in the intensity and duration of symptoms of CBD. To this end, the device “VEGA”was developed. It provokes short-term occurrence of symptoms of CBD in terrestrial conditions, simulating the effect of weightlessness on the human vestibular apparatus. To do this, it rotates the test subject around the longitudinal axis of the body in a horizontal position at a speed of 24 revolutions per minute. As a result, microgravity redistribution of fluids inside the middle ear is provided, which is typical for real space flight conditions.
When you are in a special capsule, the feeling of rotation disappears after 30-60 seconds from the beginning of the test. Then the vestibular apparatus begins to adapt relative to the gravity vector, which causes symptoms of CBD. Upon completion of the test, their severity is evaluated on a 16-point scale, after which it is possible to draw a conclusion about the degree of predisposition of the subject to CBD.
The VEGA device can be used not only for diagnosis and treatment of vestibular disorders in future astronauts. It can also be used to train the vestibular apparatus in people suffering from, for example, motion sickness in transport. However, scientists note that in this case the VEGA will only be effective for the treatment of the condition, which are caused by misalignment of the signals from the bodies located inside the middle ear (so-called semicircular canals and otolith receptors). And this, in turn, only from the sources of sensory conflicts, leading to a feeling of motion sickness. Another cause of the symptoms of motion sickness is the conflict of signals coming from the vestibular apparatus and vision. But with the use of an integrated approach in the treatment, it is possible to overcome this condition, experts add.
To date, the VEGA spacecraft has successfully passed tests with the participation of a group of 14 volunteers, 8 of whom are cosmonauts – they had CBD manifested during the flight.
The developers note that with sufficient funding, the launch of small-scale production of the device for the diagnosis and treatment of problems with the vestibular apparatus, as well as its introduction into medical practice can be organized during the year.
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