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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Instability of ocular torsion in zero gravity: possible implications for space motion sickness.

Inherent asymmetries of the gravity-sensitive otolith organs of the inner ear may be well-compensated in ordinary 1 G, but rendered unstable in novel gravitational states. Several aspects of ocular counterrolling and spontaneous eye torsion, reflexes governed by the otoliths, were examined during the hypo- and hypergravity in parabolic flight on the NASA KC-135 aircraft. Among the subjects were two astronauts, one who had suffered space motion sickness during his mission and one who had not. Using an observed separation of scores of torsional instability at 0 G as the criterion, we divided our 10 subjects into the 5 highest and 5 lowest scorers, reminiscent of the approximately 50% who do and the 50% who do not experience space motion sickness (SMS). The astronaut who had had SMS was in the high group; and the one who had not was in the low group. At 1.8 G, the groups defined at 0 G were significantly different in the instability measure. They were also significantly different at both 0 G and 1.8 G in another measure, that of torsional variability. There were no differences between the groups in amplitude of eye torsion in 0 G or 1.8 G. None of the tests were significantly different in 1 G. The results suggest that these tests of eye torsion on the KC-135 might differentiate those who would experience SMS from those who would not. Proof of this speculation awaits replication of the study using only astronaut subjects.[1]


  1. Instability of ocular torsion in zero gravity: possible implications for space motion sickness. Diamond, S.G., Markham, C.H., Money, K.E. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine. (1990) [Pubmed]
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