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Free Content Human Cognitive Performance in Spaceflight and Analogue Environments

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Strangman GE, Sipes W, Beven G. Human cognitive performance in spaceflight and analogue environments. Aviat Space Environ Med 2014; 85:1033–48.

Maintaining intact cognitive performance is a high priority for space exploration. This review seeks to summarize the cumulative results of existing studies of cognitive performance in spaceflight and analogue environments. We focused on long-duration (>21 d) studies for which no review has previously been conducted. There were 11 published studies identified for long-duration spaceflight (N = 42 subjects) as well as 21 shorter spaceflight studies (N = 70 subjects). Overall, spaceflight cognitive studies ranged from 6-438 d in duration. Some 55 spaceflight analogue studies were also identified, ranging from 6 to 520 d. The diverse nature of experimental procedures and protocols precluded formal meta-analysis. In general, the available evidence fails to strongly support or refute the existence of specific cognitive deficits in low Earth orbit during long-duration spaceflight, which may be due in large part to small numbers of subjects. The studies consistently suggest that novel environments (spaceflight or other) induce variable alterations in cognitive performance across individuals, consistent with known astronaut experiences. This highlights the need to better quantify the magnitude and scope of this interindividual variability, and understand its underlying factors, when predicting in-flight cognitive functioning for extended periods.

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Keywords: emotional processing; executive function; hippocampus; long-duration spaceflight; social processing

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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