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Free Content Subject Anxiety and Psychological Considerations for Centrifuge-Simulated Suborbital Spaceflight

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Mulcahy RA, Blue RS, Vardiman JL, Mathers CH, Castleberry TL, Vanderploeg JM. Subject anxiety and psychological considerations for centrifuge-simulated suborbital spaceflight. Aviat Space Environ Med 2014; 85:847–51.

Introduction: Anxiety and psychological concerns may pose a challenge to future commercial spaceflight. To help identify potential measures of anxiousness and indicators of flight-related stress, the psychiatric histories and anxiousness responses of volunteers exposed to G forces in centrifuge-simulated spaceflight acceleration profiles were examined. Methods: Over 2 d, 86 individuals (63 men, 23 women), 20-78 yr old, underwent up to 7 centrifuge runs. Day 1 consisted of two +Gz runs (peak = +3.5 Gz) and two +Gx runs (peak = +6.0 Gx). Day 2 consisted of three runs approximating suborbital spaceflight profiles (combined +Gx and +Gz). Hemodynamic data were collected during the profiles. Subjects completed a retrospective self-report anxiety questionnaire. Medical monitors identified individuals exhibiting varying degrees of anxiousness during centrifuge exposure, medical histories of psychiatric disease, and other potential indicators of psychological intolerance of spaceflight. Results: The retrospective survey identified 18 individuals self-reporting anxiousness, commonly related to unfamiliarity with centrifuge acceleration and concerns regarding medical history. There were 12 individuals (5 men, 7 women, average age 46.2 yr) who were observed to have anxiety that interfered with their ability to complete training; of these, 4 reported anxiousness on their questionnaire and 9 ultimately completed the centrifuge profiles. Psychiatric history was not significantly associated with anxious symptoms. Discussion: Anxiety is likely to be a relevant and potentially disabling problem for commercial spaceflight participants; however, positive psychiatric history and self-reported symptoms did not predict anxiety during centrifuge performance. Symptoms of anxiousness can often be ameliorated through training and coaching. Even highly anxious individuals are likely capable of tolerating commercial spaceflight.

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Keywords: G force; commercial spaceflight participant; hypergravity; motion sickness; psychology

Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: University of Texas Medical Branch, Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, Galveston, TX, USA

Publication date: 2014-08-01

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