Center for Space Medicine

Behavioral Health Research

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Current Behavioral Health Research

Terms

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Clifton Callaway, M.D., Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Cold-Sleep for Long Duration Spaceflight 

Institution: University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of performance and behavioral health decrements due to inadequate cooperation, coordination, communication, and psychosocial adaptation within a team; adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders.

Project: Dr. Callaway’s research will aim to develop a human protocol for “cold-sleep,” to mitigate psychological stress and reduce resource utilization in spaceflight. Cold-sleep can reduce psychological stress by decreasing perceived duration of mission segments where crew members do not have specified tasks, one of NASA’s top challenges when it comes to long duration spaceflight. It can also reduce oxygen and food consumption as well as carbon dioxide and solid waste production. With this research, crew members could extend their sleep, improving mission duration perception and carbon dioxide reduction. Dr. Callaway’s research team will demonstrate metabolic suppression with oral, topical and transmucosal A2AR agonists, allowing crew members to self-administer the treatment. Dr. Callaway will also demonstrate a comfortable and reliable monitoring array and cooling pad to ensure astronaut safety and temperature control.  The research protocol aims to establish the pathway for testing the efficacy of other emerging drugs for metabolic suppression that are not yet approved in humans.

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Principal Investigator: Tammy Chang, M.D., Ph.D.

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Research: The Effect of Isochoric Supercooling on Human Liver Metabolic Function

Institution: University of California, San Francisco

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of performance decrement and crew illness due to inadequate food and nutrition; radiation carcinogenesis; adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders; adverse health event due to altered immune response; injury and compromised performance due to EVA operations.

Project: Dr. Chang’s research will aim to utilize hibernation and hypothermia as potential measures to reduce crew metabolic rate during long duration space missions. In this project, Dr. Chang’s research team hypothesizes that isochoric (constant volume) supercooling can be used to preserve human tissues at sub-zero temperatures without the damaging effects of freezing. This project proposes cell structures will retain water in sub-zero isochoric supercooled conditions, while all cell functions, constructive or destructive, will halt. Due to the lack of ice formation and freeze-thaw, tissues preserved by isochoric supercooling could sustain minimal damage and regain full function upon recovery to normal body temperature.  Dr. Chang will determine the metabolic function of human-induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived liver organoids during and following recovery from isochoric supercooling. During supercooled preservation, the research team will assess metabolic activity. After recovery, the team will determine cell viability, activation of cell death and cell stress pathways, and return to metabolic function. This project also tests the scalability of isochoric supercooling to preserve an intact human liver, using organs deemed not suitable for transplantation and compare the metabolic function, histology, metabolomic profile, and global gene expression of whole intact livers, before and after isochoric supercooled preservation for various durations of time. If successful, the results of this research will demonstrate isochoric supercooling as a potential cross-cutting countermeasure that can significantly reduce crew metabolic demands and mitigate multiple spaceflight-associated health risks.

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Principal Investigator: Allyson Hindle, Ph.D.

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Research: Can Humans Hibernate at Warm Temperatures?

Institution: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of adverse health outcomes and decrements in performance due to inflight medical conditions; performance decrement and crew illness due to inadequate food and nutrition; performance decrements and adverse health outcomes resulting from sleep loss, circadian desynchronization, and work overload.

Project: Dr. Hindle’s project will determine the optimum body temperature for human hibernation, that maximizes energy savings while minimizing homeostatic disruption. Cold temperatures allow the greatest metabolic savings, but it is not known to what degree homeostatic control is maintained across temperatures. Natural hibernators, such as bears, retain warm body temperatures whereas ground squirrels allow body temperature to drop. One scenario to promote metabolic depression of spaceflight crews would be to provoke body temperature declines to ambient spacecraft temperatures–based on observations from natural hibernators, this is exactly the temperature at which Dr. Hindle’s lab anticipates the maximum disruption of homeostasis would occur. This project will test the hypothesis that warm hibernation elicits the most homeostatic dysregulation in mammals, including humans, by tracking the control of gene expression (transcript ion) and protein synthesis(translation) in a ground squirrel model capable of hibernating to cold temperatures alongside human cells and tissues. Dr. Hindle’s research will determine an optimum temperature for human “hibernation” in vitro that balances metabolic rate reduction with maintenance and recovery of homeostatic processes. As a result, Dr. Hindle’s lab will produce a recommendation regarding the efficacy and safety of “hibernating” human crewmembers at ambient spacecraft temperatures. This project will use a parallel approach to investigate control of transcription and translation over a range of “hibernation” temperatures in a natural hibernator in vivo, alongside human cells and tissues in vitro. 

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Principal Investigator: Christopher Porada, Ph.D.

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Research: Using Human Organoids and Fossilized Remains from Extinct Hominins to Unlock the Secrets of Torpor/Hibernation

Institution: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of adverse health event due to altered immune response; radiation carcinogenesis; spaceflight induced cardiovascular disease; performance decrement and crew illness due to inadequate food and nutrition.

Project: Multi-year deep space missions will subject astronauts to extreme physiological and psychological stressors. While advanced strategies for onboard generation of required metabolic inputs and recycling waste may one day reduce this burden on storage capacity, such interventions will not address the physiological and psychological stressors of such missions. The ability to induce astronauts into a hypometabolic state would reduce the psychological effects of isolation and containment, diminish the physiological effects of zero G and radiation, and dramatically reduce O2, H2O, and food consumption and the consequent production of metabolic wastes. Dr. Porada’s lab will work to identify novel methods for inducing a hypometabolic state in human tissues and define the optimal parameters for achieving such a state while preserving human tissue viability and function. The research team will work to identify molecular pathways associated with these adaptations and determine means to safely reduce the metabolic needs of three key human tissues (heart, liver, and bone marrow) for prolonged periods and subsequently restore them to a normal metabolic state. Dr. Porada will then test the ability of a hypometabolic state to protect these human tissues from the deleterious effects of space radiation. This research will also exploit the recent finding that an extinct species of humans (SH hominins) had the ability to hibernate by performing genomic analyses comparing this species to closely related non-hibernators (Neanderthals and Denisovans) to unlock clues to human hibernation and use the obtained information to further optimize induction of a hypometabolic state in the human microengineered organ equivalents (MOEs). 

Allison

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Principal Investigator: Allison Anderson, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Performance Enhancement Through Multi-Modal Stochastic Resonance

Institution: University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Co.
Project dates: Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2021

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions (BMed)

Project: This project investigates the operational benefit of brain stimulation with stochastic resonance. Dr. Anderson’s lab will measure performance enhancement across multiple sensory modalities, in complex tasks, and over repeated use when stochastic resonance is applied through the auditory and vestibular sensory pathways. To enhance neurocognitive and task performance, stochastic resonance (SR) may be used to enhance “information transfer” across multiple sensory modalities, reducing the cognitive workload associated with complex tasks. Dr. Anderson will study improvements in perception within and across modalities when SR is applied to the auditory and vestibular channels, changes in performance on complex tasks requiring multi-sensory integration while using multi-modal SR, and the long-term effects and potential benefits of multi-modal SR in a spaceflight analog environment. Since SR improves perception through multiple pathways, it may be an easy, safe-to-administer way to improve performance in operational spaceflight environments. These improvements in performance achieved through SR may be critical for times of high stress, where resiliency is required and improvement in performance can make the difference, for example during vehicle launch, landing, or emergency situations.

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Matthew

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Matthew Gaidica, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Manipulating Sleep Architecture as an Operational Countermeasure

Institution: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Project dates: Aug. 1, 2020 - July 31, 2022

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and risk of performance decrements and adverse health outcomes resulting from sleep loss, circadian desynchronization, and work overload (BMed/Sleep)

Project: Space exploration exposes humans to unique stressors that if not addressed compromise physical and psychological health and performance. Sleep is known to promote physiologic resilience making it paramount in challenging circumstances, but all sleep is not the same. Progressive, stereotyped sleep stages are common in mammals and form a basic structure known as “sleep architecture”. High homeostatic value has been placed on slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is the deepest state of sleep characterized synchronous 1–4 Hz brain oscillations. This proposal aims to use a novel translational model, the wild red squirrel, to identify critical conditions for which enhancing SWS through non-invasive audio stimulation may mitigate the influence of stressors or augment performance. 

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Wei

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Wei Gao, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: A Multimodal Wearable System for Deep Space Monitoring of Stress and Anxiety

Institution: California Institute of Technology
Project dates: April 1, 2020 - March 31, 2022

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of reduced physical performance capabilities due to reduced aerobic capacity (Aerobic)

Project: The goal of this project is to develop a holistic hardware/software solution based on a multimodal wearable sensing platform to achieve dynamic deep space stress and anxiety assessment.  Sweat could serve as an excellent candidate for non-invasive stress response monitoring as it contains rich physiological information. The hypothesis is that sweat analyte levels monitored continuously along with the key vital signs, when coupled with machine learning approach, will provide accurate and dynamic stress and anxiety assessment. The approach is to simultaneously monitor the molecular analytes in human sweat including stress hormones (i.e., cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline), glucose, lactate, sodium, potassium, pH, sweat rate, and key vital signs (i.e., skin temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate viability) using the wearable multimodal sensing platform. Based on a combination of the physical/molecular data and machine learning model, a more comprehensive stress assessment system with significantly higher accuracy and robustness can be achieved.

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Donna

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Donna Roberts, M.D.

Item Definition

Research: Safety and Efficacy of an Accelerated Protocol of Intermittent Theta Burst Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to Enhance Performance and Promote Resilience in Astronauts

Institution: Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.
Project dates: Jan. 1, 2019 - Aug. 31, 2021

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions (BMed)

Project: Given the extreme conditions and stressful situations that will be encountered on exploration class missions, crews must demonstrate peak performance and resilience. Beyond medications, nutrition, and exercise, non-invasive brain stimulation is a method for maintaining and optimizing performance. Dr. Roberts will develop and establish the efficacy of accelerated repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) as a non-pharmacological method for enhancing cognitive performance and resilience in high-performing healthy adults of astronaut age. Dr. Roberts’ lab will establish an optimal dose of accelerated rTMS for enhancing neurocognitive performance and resilience that maximizes efficacy while minimizing burden, then examine the efficacy and safety of accelerated rTMS to left dlPFC for enhancing cognitive performance and resilience. Finally, Dr. Roberts will evaluate the biological efficacy of TMS in a microgravity environment via parabolic flight.

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Previously Funded Behavioral Health Research

Terms
Allen

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Antiño Allen, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Photobiomodulation to Ameliorate Neuronal Degeneration and Cognitive Decline after Mixed Field Irradiation

Institution: University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Little Rock, Ark.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Problem Addressed: Exposure to space irradiation presents a significant risk to flight crews in the course of prolonged space exploration, yet there is currently no therapy that can reverse the effect of radiation-induced cognitive dysfunction.

Major Aim of Project: To identify specific components of the central nervous system that are most vulnerable to radiation injury, as well as investigate the space-relevant dose-response parameters for photobiomodulation as radiation countermeasure.

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Matthias

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Mathias Basner, M.D., Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Advanced Algorithms for the Prediction of Adverse Cognitive and Behavioral Conditions in Space

Institution: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Degen/ CVD

Project: Astronauts must maintain high levels of cognitive performance while facing the many challenges of the spaceflight environment. The ability to predict cognitive performance decrements would be very useful and promote success. In previous work with NASA, Drs. Basner and Dinges collected cognitive performance and self-report data from 24 astronauts on 6-month trips on the International Space Station. For TRISH, their team will add information on environmental stressors – like CO2, radiation, and noise levels. The resulting database will be the basis for individualized, machine learning algorithms that predict cognitive performance. These algorithms can help identify the most relevant spaceflight stressors and function as early predictors of cognitive performance decrements in astronauts.

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David

Item Term
Principal Investigator: David Dinges, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Evaluation of SmartSleep Technology for Improving the Efficiency and Restorative Quality of Sleep in Healthy Adults in Order to Mitigate Cognitive Performance Deficits Due to Sleep Restriction and Emergency Awakenings

Institution: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Project: Astronauts must maintain high-level cognitive functioning during space travel and remain able to respond quickly to emergencies, which can occur at any time.  Both sleep duration and sleep quality can be reduced in spaceflight, leading to deficits in alertness and cognitive functions, as well as increased stress and physical exhaustion.  Dr. Dinges is using the “SmartSleep” wearable device to test the impact of inaudible slow waves as a way to improve sleep quality and increase cognitive functions during reduced sleep periods and sudden awakenings, which can occur in spaceflight.

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Jacek

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Jacek Dmochowski, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Boosting Brain Metabolism in Spaceflight with Transcranial Photobiomodulation

Institution: City College of New York, New York, N.Y.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Project: Despite sometimes less than optimal conditions, astronauts must always be ready to perform tasks that require high levels of cognitive abilities.  Light in the near-infrared range has been shown to stimulate vascular and metabolic function in a variety of cells.  Dr. Dmochowski proposed to develop a new technique to enhance brain function by applying safe levels of laser light to the forehead.  The light treatment may help to improve attention and working memory by increasing the energy available to neurons.  This technology would be easy to apply during space travel and could enhance astronauts’ performance on mental tasks.

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Pengyu

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Pengyu Hong, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Predicting individual differences in learning and performance using machine learning methods for dynamic stabilization in a spaceflight analog task

Institution: Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.
Start Date: Oct. 1, 2018
End Date: Sept. 30, 2019
TRISH Synergy Project: PI Paul Dizio, Vivekanand Vimal
Study Type: Ground Study

NASA Risk Addressed: HSID

Problem Addressed: This project investigates which mathematical metrics are the core metrics that predict performance and learning, which metrics are redundant and dependent on other metrics, and to determine whether the same classifier can be generalized to different conditions and paradigms.

Major Aim of Project: This project aims to develop and customize the machine learning architecture for a Space Flight Analog Environment at Brandeis University (Paul Dizio, Vivekanand Vimal).

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Matteo

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Principal Investigator: Matteo Lai, CEO

Item Definition

Research: EmbraceX

Company: Empatica, Inc.
Start date: April 1, 2019
End date: March 31, 2020
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Project: Empatica Inc. is developing a space-ready wearable health monitor. A traditional medical device electronics development process will be applied using state-of-the-art sensors, materials, and machine learning technologies. The durable and low-power EmbraceX device will be capable of sensing different physiological parameters to enable whole real-time health monitoring.

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Josh

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Josh Ruben, Co-Founder

Item Definition

Research: Project Atlas

Company: Z3VR
Start date: May 1, 2019
End date: April 30, 2020
Study type: Ground study

Project: Z3VR is developing a space-suitable virtual reality (VR) game that could improve physical fitness and mental well-being.  The VR game will have an exercise mode, which will use real-time heart and respiration rates to influence the difficulty and intensity of physically challenging tasks.  The use of VR allows users to participate in a variety of exercises, increasing adherence to a physical fitness routine.  The game will also have a meditation module that uses biometric data to achieve optimal heart rate by varying the user’s environment, increasing mood-boosting benefits. 

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Eva

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Eva Sevick-Muraca, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Quantification of the lymphatic pump strength and assessment of CSF drainage into the lymphatics during HDT

Institution: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas
Start Date: May 1, 2017
End Date: July 31, 2018
Study Type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS)

Giulio

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Giulio Tononi, M.D., Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: OASIS: Optimizing Auditory Stimulation to Improve Cognitive Performance Using SmartSleep

Institution: University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Project: Many astronauts do not get enough sleep, which is known to negatively affect brain function. Dr. Tononi’s group is evaluating ways to optimize sleep without medication, using sounds that increase the type of brain waves that are most restorative during sleep. Their project will conduct the first long-term test to determine how different sound patterns affect next day performance. Subjects will use a wearable device (SmartSleep) capable  of delivering sounds ina variety of ways during deep sleep, and a short-term cognitive test developed specifically for astronauts will be administered multiple times per day. The results will determine the behavioral effects of the system, and identify what optimizations are needed to use this technology in spaceflight.

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Vivek

Item Term
Principal Investigator: Vivekanand Vimal, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Principal Investigator: Vivekanand Vimal, Ph.D.

Research: Predicting individual differences in learning to manually stabilize attitude in a space flight analog environment.

Mentor: Paul DiZio, Ph.D. 
Institution: Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.
Start Date: Dec. 1, 2017
End Date: Nov. 30, 2020
Study Type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Sensorimotor Alterations (SM)  

Project: On the journey to the Moon or to Mars, astronauts will experience multiple gravitational transitions that will make them susceptible to spatial disorientation that can jeopardize the mission.  In the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab we strap blindfolded humans into a device that is programmed to behave like an inverted pendulum.  The participants are instructed to dynamically stabilize themselves using a joystick. In our spaceflight analog condition, the participants are unable to use gravitational cues to determine their location and they become very spatially disoriented. In the first specific aim, we are developing a battery of tests and techniques, including machine learning, to predict the huge individual differences in participants that we find in the spaceflight analog task. In the second specific aim, we are developing an effective training program that will enhance performance in the spaceflight analog condition for all participants. 

See Dr. Vimal discuss his research.

Seung-Schik

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Principal Investigator: Seung-Schik Yoo, Ph.D.

Item Definition

Research: Wearable Modular Focused Ultrasound Systems for Non-Invasive Stimulation of the Human Brain During Deep Space Exploration

Institution: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Biomedical

Project: Long duration space travel present many mental challenges to astronauts, also requiring them to perform challenging tasks in a stressful environment.  A new technique called transcranial focused ultrasound allows focused delivery of ultrasound waves to stimulate small regions of the brain, including deep brain areas.  Dr. Yoo is working to develop a lightweight, wearable focused ultrasound device that could be used during space flight to modulate brain activity. If successful, such a system could provide a unique way to stimulate the brain to regain or enhance performance during exploration.

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