TABLE 2.1 Summary of Funding in FY 1999 for Sensorimotor Integration Subdisciplines

 

NRA

 

NSBRI

 

NSBRI-NIH

 

Subdiscipline

Total ($ thousands)

No. of Projects

Total ($ thousands)

No. of Projects

Total ($ thousands)

No. of Projects

Spatial orientation

1,188

5

339

1

112

1

Posture and locomotion

1,024

5

369

1

0

0

VOR and oculomotor control

962

6

321

1

1,301

5

Space motion sickness

130

1

0

0

0

0

CNS reorganization and vestibular processing during microgravity

555

3

0

0

0

0

Teleoperation

179

1

0

0

0

0

Development of vestibular system

706

6

0

0

0

0

Neural space maps

84

1

0

0

0

0

Neuroplasticity

514

2

0

0

0

0

Total

5,342

30

1,029

3

1,413

6

supported by the NSBRI is an interdisciplinary proposal (i.e., identified as a synergy project) concerned with the visual and vestibular autonomic influence on short-term cardiovascular regulatory mechanisms.

In the BR&C program, research on sensorimotor integration is heavily concentrated on human studies of postural stability, the vestibulo-ocular reflex and oculomotor control, and visuospatial orientation and adaptation. One-third (6/18) of the projects in the BR&C program are focused on postural control and motor adaptation to variations in gravitational force level, one of the issues identified in the Strategy report. The other two recommendations made in the Strategy report for future studies of posture and locomotion concern the development of ancillary sensory aids to facilitate postural and locomotory control and to assist in adaptation during transitions between gravitational force environments, and the development of animal models of reentry disturbances. These do not appear to be the primary focus of any studies being funded by NASA at present.

Studies of oculomotor control and vestibular reflexes account for approximately one-third of the sensorimotor integration projects funded through NASA’s BR&C program and represent a major emphasis of the program. These projects address all of the issues raised with respect to this area in the Strategy report. This research has contributed to the understanding of the effects of microgravity on the vestibulo-ocular system, on the control of head and eye position, and on how the vestibular reflexes adapt to altered gravitational conditions.

Accurate spatial orientation is essential in order to control one’s movements and to interact with objects in the environment. On Earth, gravity plays a fundamental role in spatial orientation. In the absence of gravitational cues during spaceflight, astronauts often misinterpret visual information and experience visual reorientation illusions when they misperceive their own orientation with respect to the



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