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Preflight Virtual Reality Training as a Countermeasure for Space Motion Sickness and Disorientation

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Stroud KJ, Harm DL, Klaus DM. Preflight virtual reality training as a countermeasure for space motion sickness and disorientation. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76:352–356.

Introduction: Research suggests that preflight training in virtual reality devices can simulate certain aspects of microgravity and may prove to be an effective countermeasure for space motion sickness (SMS) and spatial disorientation (SD). It is hypothesized that exposing subjects preflight to variable virtual orientations, similar to those encountered during spaceflight, will reduce the incidence and/or severity of SMS and SD. Methods: Subjects were assigned to either a variable training (VT) or nonvariable training (NVT) condition to perform a simple navigation and switch activation task in a virtual space station. VT subjects performed the task starting in several different orientations, whereas NVT subjects always performed the task starting in the same orientation. On a separate day, all subjects then performed the same task in a transfer of training session starting from a novel orientation. Results: When exposed to the novel test orientation, VT subjects performed the tasks more quickly (12%) and with fewer nausea symptoms (53%) than during the training session, compared with NVT subjects who performed more slowly (6%) and with more nausea symptoms (28%). Both VT and NVT conditions were effective in reducing the number of wall hits in the novel orientation (39% and 34%, respectively). Discussion: These results demonstrate the effectiveness of using variable training in a virtual environment for reducing nausea and improving task performance in potentially disorienting surroundings, and suggest that such training may be developed into an effective countermeasure for SMS, SD, and associated performance decrements that occur in spaceflight.
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Keywords: astronaut; orientation; spatial disorientation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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