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The perception of verticality in lunar and Martian gravity conditions

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Author: Winkel, K.N. de · Clément, G. · Groen, E.L. · Werkhoven, P.J.
Source:Neuroscience Letters, 1, 529, 7-11
Identifier: 465828
doi: doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.09.026
Keywords: Health · Gravity · Microgravity · Spatial orientation · Subjective vertical · Weightlessness · adult · age distribution · article · body posture · clinical article · gravity · human · male · moon · perception · priority journal · spatial orientation · task performance · visual stimulation · Defence, Safety and Security · Human · PCS - Perceptual and Cognitive Systems · BSS - Behavioural and Societal Sciences


Although the mechanisms of neural adaptation to weightlessness and re-adaptation to Earth-gravity have received a lot of attention since the first human space flight, there is as yet little knowledge about how spatial orientation is affected by partial gravity, such as lunar gravity of 0.16. g or Martian gravity of 0.38. g. Up to now twelve astronauts have spent a cumulated time of approximately 80. h on the lunar surface, but no psychophysical experiments were conducted to investigate their perception of verticality. We investigated how the subjective vertical (SV) was affected by reduced gravity levels during the first European Parabolic Flight Campaign of Partial Gravity. In normal and hypergravity, subjects accurately aligned their SV with the gravitational vertical. However, when gravity was below a certain threshold, subjects aligned their SV with their body longitudinal axis. The value of the threshold varied considerably between subjects, ranging from 0.03 to 0.57. g. Despite the small number of subjects, there was a significant positive correlation of the threshold with subject age, which calls for further investigation. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.