Applied Research Group on Space and Underwater Neurology

The Research Group on Space  and Underwater Neurology  was primarily founded to  coordinate studies about the  influence of the weightlessness  during space flights. After first  experiences in the real micro  gravity, it could be inferred that mainly the movement system was  affected, without an essential  influence on the cognitive abilities. The crew members in space stations can perform highest technical  programs and difficult scientific  projects. As main disturbances in  the weightlessness, a dysfunction  of the proprioceptive system, the reafference of motor control, was  discovered. As a temporary  disturbance after the return to  the Earth’s atmosphere, the  “Weightlessness Ataxia” was  described by I.B. Kozlowskaya.

Oleg Georgevic Gazenko, the director of the Russian Space  Medical Institute, introduced  simulated micro gravity in the research program of weightlessness. The Bed Rest Method and the Dry Immersion System are used on volunteers, staying in a horizontal position, cared with all hygienic  and nutritional support. With  this method, specific scientific  programs to study the weightlessness can be performed. As a main  result of the different elaborated  projects, the dysfunction of the  proprioceptive system was  confirmed.

In the transfer of the experimental results to clinical conditions,  the symptoms of the  Bed Rest  Syndrome can be stated, showing a polyneuropathy with additional primary muscle atrophies and a  posterior tract dysfunction.  Clinically, the Bed Rest Syndrome causes great problems in chronic neurological conditions, especially in long-lasting coma states but also in progredient neurodegenerative diseases. Bed Rest Symptoms can be observed in heart disturbances and in elderly people. New methods have to be developed to prevent this secondary complication. The different methods are mainly elaborated from the countermeasures used in real weightlessness.

With the fMRI method, an activation of the sensorimotor regions after a stimulation of the proprioceptive system could be demonstrated. In the meantime, this method is established as a paradigm of fMRI to discover rest functions of conscious in post-coma states.

In the subdivision Underwater Neurology, a working group was established to introduce the scuba diving system in neurorehabilitation. Spasticity in mild spinal cord lesions and a disturbance of the vertebral spine can be successfully treated.

The hyperbaric oxygenation treatment (HBOT), until now called a stepchild, has the handicap to need high technical equipment with a specially trained crew. HBOT can be included in neurorehabilitation programs. Our group has initiated a cooperation with the Adeli Medical Center in Piestany, Slovakia. A treatment program to introduce HBOT for cerebral palsy and for patients with a vegetative state/apallic syndrome has been developed.

The program of the ARG Space  and Underwater Neurology is  focused on the research of the  proprioceptive system and its  disturbances. The main clinical project is the Bed Rest Syndrome in long-lasting bed lay conditions such as prolonged coma states as well as in chronic  neurological diseases with reduced motoric activities. New methods in neurorehabilitation using stimulation of the proprioceptive system are in development. In HBOT, a cooperation with centers specializing in this method in neurological conditions is the goal.