The SpaceX Dragon rocket, which will take off this week, will carry a rather unusual load. These are electroencephalogram headphones that will be part of an important experiment on the International Space Station (ISS).
These helmet-like devices will have the mission of analyzing the neurological activity of astronauts to try to understand how microgravity affects the brain. It is an unprecedented investigation and it is important, since little is still known about the effects of space travel on this organ.
While it is very common for physiological changes in astronauts to be measured, from heart rate to muscle mass, there is currently no high-quality longitudinal data on neural changes during space missions.
The results of these tests are expected to help understand how the brain adapts to long-term space travel.
“In future missions, the trips will last much longer, and the effects of microgravity on the state of the astronauts will have a great impact,” explains Yair Levy, CEO of Brain Space, the company behind this device. “Then we will have a tool that can measure the impact on cognition, and we will be able to invent tools that allow cognitive capacity to be recovered during the mission.”
These new headsets will be tested on the crew of Axiom-1 (AX-1), the world’s first private mission to the ISS. The innovative system uses electroencephalography to capture the tiny electrical signals that occur when neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Later, an artificial intelligence will eliminate the signals and interpret the data.
Crew members will wear the device for three 20-minute stints over the eight days of the mission. When the astronauts are back on Earth, they will again use the headset to assess the after effects of microgravity.