ReportsLife Sciences

Vestibulospinal reflexes as a function of microgravity

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  13 Jul 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4658, pp. 212-214
DOI: 10.1126/science.6729475


The idea that sustained microgravity will result in altered otolith input requiring a modification of postural control was explored by using the pathway that links the otolith organs and spinal motoneurons. Two related methods were used. First, the Hoffmann reflex was used to measure at specific times the excitability of the soleus-spinal motoneuron pool during a brief unexpected linear acceleration. Second, extensive dynamic postural testing with a moving platform was done before and after flight. The Hoffmann reflex amplitude, reflecting otolith-modulated motoneuron sensitivity, was low in flight after adaptation, and its postflight potentiation may have been dependent on rate of adaptation. The strength of inflight motion sickness symptoms was related to postflight Hoffmann reflex amplitude. Dynamic posture tests showed significant deviations from the results obtained before flight. The strategy used for balance on the moving platform was modified, and the behavior of the subjects suggested a decrease in awareness of the direction and magnitude of the motion.