The ALTEA/ALTEINO projects: Studying functional effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation

L. Narici*, F. Belli, V. Bidoli, M. Casolino, M. P. De Pascale, L. Di Fino, G. Furano, I. Modena, A. Morselli, P. Picozza, E. Reali, A. Rinaldi, D. Ruggieri, R. Sparvoli, V. Zaconte, W. G. Sannita, S. Carozzo, S. Licoccia, P. Romagnoli, E. TraversaV. Cotronei, M. Vazquez, J. Miller, V. P. Salnitskii, O. I. Shevchenko, V. P. Petrov, K. A. Trukhanov, A. Galper, A. Khodarovich, M. G. Korotkov, A. Popov, N. Vavilov, S. Avdeev, M. Boezio, W. Bonvicini, A. Vacchi, N. Zampa, G. Mazzenga, M. Ricci, P. Spillantini, G. Castellini, R. Vittori, P. Carlson, C. Fuglesang, D. Schardt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

The ALTEA project investigates the risks of functional brain damage induced by particle radiation in space. A modular facility (the ALTEA facility) is being implemented and will be operated in the International Space Station (ISS) to record electrophysiological and behavioral descriptors of brain function and to monitor their time dynamics and correlation with particles and space environment. The focus of the program will be on abnormal visual perceptions (often reported as "light flashes" by astronauts) and the impact on retinal and brain visual structures of particle in microgravity conditions. The facility will be made available to the international scientific community for human neurophysiological, electrophysiological and psychophysics experiments, studies on particle fluxes, and dosimetry. A precursor of ALTEA (the 'Alteino' project) helps set the experimental baseline for the ALTEA experiments, while providing novel information on the radiation environment onboard the ISS and on the brain electrophysiology of the astronauts during orbital flights. Alteino was flown to the ISS on the Soyuz TM34 as part of mission Marco Polo. Controlled ground experiments using mice and accelerator beams complete the experimental strategy of ALTEA. We present here the status of progress of the ALTEA project and preliminary results of the Alteino study on brain dynamics, particle fluxes and abnormal visual perceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1352-1357
Number of pages6
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These anomalies occur most often during dark adaptation ( Pinsky et al., 1974, 1975 ). Evidence in accelerator controlled experiments ( Charman et al., 1971 ; Tobias et al., 1971 ; Charman and Rowlands, 1971 ; McAulay, 1971 ; McNulty, 1971 ; McNulty et al., 1972 ; Budinger et al., 1972 ; McNulty and Pease, 1978 ) and measurements in space ( Osborne et al., 1975 ; Bidoli et al., 2001 ; Avdeev et al., 2002 ; Casolino et al., 2003 ) link this phenomenon to cosmic, probably HZE, particles impacting on the eye. Many related issues, in particular the biophysics of this phenomenon, remain open. The retina appears involved in the perception of LF, yet the brain cortical regions dedicated to vision may be affected by particles as well and anecdotal evidence suggests an effect of heavy ions on the optic nerve. Documented electrophysiological effects of particles on the brain may be related to as yet undetected functional impairment and would raise questions regarding crew safety especially during emergencies. Cumulative effects, possibly overlooked in the past due to the absence of detectable prolonged or irreversible symptoms, still warrant detailed investigations. ALTEA is funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).

Keywords

  • Functional effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation
  • The ALTEA/ALTEINO projects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science

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