Information from the skin of the foot sole has been shown to have a role in balance control. As we age the fidelity of the information relayed by the sensors in the skin is decreased. With a reduction in skin information, there are deficits in balance control and an increased incidence of falls in the elderly. Current strategies to improve balance involve the augmentation of skin input through vibration devices. Space flight provides a unique opportunity to further investigate the relationship between changes in balance control and skin contributions. During space flight, there are changes that occur with the postural control system due to the altered gravito-inertial environment. The specific changes that occur with skin have not been documented.
The proposal aims to use monofilament (vonFrey Hairs) and vibration testing to determine changes in skin sensitivity post space flight. Crew members will indicate when sensations are present during the testing paradigm. Post-Flight values will be compared to those obtained Pre-Flight. Values will also be correlated to changes observed in whole body postural control. It is hypothesized that skin sensitivity will be increased post space flight. This will be demonstrated by lower thresholds during monofilament and vibration testing. It is also hypothesized that increases in the sensitivity of the skin will correlate with balance deficiencies related to vestibular information. The results will formally document changes in skin sensitivity post-space flight and will contribute to our knowledge of current theories on skin contribution to postural control on earth.
Funded by the Canadian Space Agency and Supported by NASA.