November 27, 2007

For decades, NASA has been using underwater experiments to study astronauts’ physiological responses to zero gravity and confinement in space vehicles and space stations for extended periods of time. NASA recently conducted this type of underwater research utilizing a wearable outfit that records multiple physiological measurements simultaneously. The suit’s off-the-shelf technology, designed by Thought Technologies Ltd, Montreal, is ultra miniaturized and uses a standard FlexComp Infiniti encoder, which stores the physiological data on compact flash memory cards.

During the recent research exercises, two astronauts, Commander Dave Williams, a Canadian physician, and Ron Garin, an American, wore the "gear" daily while living in an NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) undersea habitat off the shore of Key Largo Florida, 65 feet below the surface.

NASA researcher William Toscano described the mission: "Our project was called NEEMO 9. It was 22 days long, with 2 astronauts participating. They wore the FlexComp Infiniti system for 3 of the mission days. What we were looking at was the effect of isolation, workload and fatigue on the individuals. We’re using the NEEMO 9 environment as an analog of a space station."

The stockpile of data yielded from the research was stored on flash memory cards. "We recorded five measurements—heart rate and electrocardiogram, respiration, skin conductance, hand temperature and finger pulse volume. Throughout the day they had activities and tasks to do," Toscano says.

Micro-miniaturization technologies have enabled NASA researchers to use commercially produced biomedical devices like the FlexComp Infiniti to accomplish what previously would have required a wall full of bulky equipment. The device created by Thought Technology weighs less than a pound and has built-in data storage using flash memory cards.

NASA’s Toscano commented on the extreme research environment: "at 65 feet [the air pressure] is about 2.65 (atmospheres)—different from at the surface. There were questions of whether the instrument would function, would it work? And it did, with flying colours!"

According to a news release from Thought Technologies, Ltd, the same technology is being used by Champions League Football Team, AC Milan, directed by sport psychologist Dr. Bruno Demichelis in their "MindRoom." It is also reportedly used by many other psychologists treating ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyper-Activity Disorder) using Neurofeedback.

Source: Thought Technologies, Ltd