The UVic, UBCO, and UC members are travelling separately, but we are all at our respective airports and if our group chat is any indication, we are all excited!
I have to admit when we first started playing with the MUSE EEG headband back in 2013 in my lab at Dalhousie I never thought it would lead to this.
But here we are, en route to see if tech we have developed can be used to accurately monitor brain health and performance to support exploration in Outer Space.
My inner geek is beyond excited. My neuroscience self is so curious.
To be fair, we already know the tech works. We have tested over 1500 people in a variety of settings and we know we can do this. We just need to show it works in this particular situation, which it will.
I was speaking at Cafe Scientifique the other night and asked a simple question:
"What if we could peer into you brain and know what is wrong, right now, with 100% accuracy?"
Imagine a world where you knew if you had cognitive impairment, dementia, or Alzheimers.
Imagine a world where you knew if your recovery concussion was not progressing they way you hoped it would.
Imagine a world where you could do things to tweak your brain performance and see the results instantaneously.
Well, our tech is that world. As we continue to improve, expand, and validate our brain health and performance assessment we can answer these questions and create that world.
Tomorrow we all get on a plane to head to Hawaii and begin our research project. Our current schedule is:
Nov 28: In transit
Nov 29 to 30: Crew training
Dec 1 to Dec 8: In the HISEAS Habitat for our mission
Dec 9: Debrief
We are all excited and ready to go! I think every child dreams of being an astronaut. I know this is now quite the same, but it is good enough for me. To see tech that we developed deployed in the HISEAS Habitat will be a career high for me.
I got asked about what we had to do to get ready to go.
Physically, we have all been exercising more as the "mars walks" in a space suit are apparently quite physically demanding. I think we have all been watching our diets a bit more closely as well.
On the science side, we have been testing and retesting the hardware and software to make sure that is all good to go. This is literally a once in a lifetime chance for us so we definitely do not want to have equipment failure.
Mentally, it will be hard to be locked away. The simulation is realistic - no live communication of any kind. Our only communication with the outside world will be via email that is deliberately delayed 20 minutes to simulate the communication time from Mars. So... no FaceTime to loved ones, no quick Google searches to see what is going on. We will literally be in isolation. I am sure when this is over we will all have a newfound respect for the people that do the long duration one year simulations. Of course, I have always had respect for the people that do this for real in outer space.
One more day.
UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA MEDIA ADVISORY
Nov. 26, 2019
This is your brain on Mars
On Dec. 1, an all-Canadian, multi-university research team will be entering the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Mars Habitat to test and validate if a new technology using mobile EEG (electroencephalography) will be an effective and reliable way to monitor astronauts’ brain function and fatigue during missions in outer space.
During the one-week simulation in the HI-SEAS Mars Habitat on the Mauna Loa side of the Big Island of Hawaii, the crew of scientists will wear the EEG devices themselves and track changes in their memory, decision-making, learning, attention and perception.
The research project is co-led by Olav Krigolson, neuroscientist and associate director of UVic’s Centre for Biomedical Research, along with scientists from UBC’s Okanagan Campus (Gordon Binsted), University of Calgary (Kent Hecker), University of Hawaii and International MoonBase Alliance (Michaela Musilova), with two UVic PhD students (Tom Ferguson and Chad Williams).
Their findings could also have wide-ranging impacts on people in many occupations who face long work hours and require critical decision-making skills, including emergency room physicians, pilots or heavy equipment operators.
Once the mission starts, UVic researchers will be posting daily reports and their brain performance data to the project blog at destinationmars.ca, and to UVic social media channels including @universityofvictoria on Instagram and @uvic on Twitter.
The importance of sleep in fighting fatigue, TED Talk by Dr. Matt Walker.
Dr. Binsted received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Alberta in 2001. Since then he’s held research appointments at the University of Illinois, the Beckman Institute, and the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Binsted is currently a Professor in the School of Health and Exercise Science at the University of British Columbia (2007-present); he has held the post of Dean in the Faculty of Health and Social Development since 2011.
Dr. Binsted’s research interests focus on understanding of how the human brain detects and uses sensory information to control movement. Even the simple act of picking up a cup of coffee requires the brain to rapidly perform a complex series of sensory to motor transformations. Specifically, the brain must use visual information to locate the cup, and visual and proprioceptive information (e.g. touch, joint receptors) to locate the hand in space. However, the volume of information necessary to be processed is immense and must be curtailed prior to processing. Further, it is clear that sometimes people are not in intentional control of their actions.
Kent Hecker is an Associate Professor of Health Professions Education in Veterinary Medicine with a joint appointment in Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.
Dr Hecker studies performance in health professions education. Specifically, Dr. Hecker has built a program of basic and applied research focusing in three areas: 1) selection of applicants; 2) assessment of student/trainee competency development across the health care continuum; and 3) the application of neuro-imaging methods (functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] and electroencephalography [EEG]) to assess learning, reasoning and decision making. Hecker has published some of the first fMRI work assessing brain differences in novice and expert clinicians during clinical reasoning as well as EEG work assessing learning within a health professions education context. In 2017 he received a $365,000 (CAD) Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant to build The Health Education Neuroassesment Laboratory (THENaL) which is the first research facility in Canada for understanding how brain data relates to learning, education and behavioral test performance within health professions education.
Dr. Hecker has participated on projects with external funds of more than $2.6 million (CAD) and internal funds of more than $200,000 (CAD). He has > 65 peer reviewed manuscripts, >95 conference abstracts, and >30 invited presentations at national and international meetings. He is an Associate editor for the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, Advances in Health Sciences Education, and Canadian Medical Education Journal.
Dr. Hecker teaches graduate courses in both the Veterinary Medicine and the Medical Education graduate programs in research design and statistics, biostatistics, educational measurement and assessment, and instructional methods.
Tom Ferguson is a PhD student in the Cognition and Brain Sciences program at the University of Victoria. His research interests include decision making, statistics, data visualization, electroencephalography, acute stress, and computational modeling. Tom is interested in how we are able to integrate information about complex environments in order to guide our actions, with a particular emphasis on how we use feedback. As well, Tom wants to better understand how stress both harms and helps our ability to make decisions.
Tom was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and made his way out to the west coast for university. Tom completed both his Bachelor of Science (2014) and Master of Science (2016) degrees at the University of Victoria. Initially working with Dr. Ronald Skelton studying spatial learning and memory during his masters, Tom began working with Dr. Olav Krigolson and the Krigolson lab in 2017 and his research has now shifted more broadly to why we make the decisions we do – in particular under stressful circumstances. Tom has published articles in journals such as Cognition, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, and Behavioural Brain Research.
Chad C. Williams is a PhD student in the Neuroscience program at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He has been a member of Dr. Krigolson’s Theoretical and Applied Neuroscience Laboratory since 2015. Chad completed both his psychology undergraduate degree in 2016 and his Neuroscience Master’s of Science degree in 2018 at the University of Victoria.
Chad’s research investigates complex decision making. Specifically, he focuses on how humans would make decisions in highly demanding environments – for example, clinicians in hospitals, pilots on a Boeing 767, and now colonists on Mars. To understand decision making, he looks into the neural systems of the brain via electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Further, he integrates his findings into computational models with the goal of optimizing decision making and predicting when mistakes will occur.
Alongside understanding the neural mechanisms underlying decision making, Chad has a passion for integrating the mind with technology. His first step into brain-computer interfaces was in 2018 when he established a way to control a robot with his mind. More specifically, he was able to control a Lego Mindstorm with brain waves which were measured using the Muse Headband. He is already pursuing the next step of this research; however, details are forthcoming.
To date, Chad has received a total of nineteen awards (totaling $197,500) including two NSERC Scholarships (Master’s and Doctoral). He is now a second year PhD student and has published thirteen manuscripts, five of which as first author, in prominent journals including Neuroimage, Computational Brain and Behavior, and Biological Psychology. He is currently collaborating with researchers across five universities and working on projects across three countries.
Dr. Olav Krigolson is the Associate Director for the Centre for Biomedical Research, an Associate Professor in Neuroscience, and the Principle Investigator of the Theoretical and Applied Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Victoria.