CBHMM1. Mission Complete.
The 8th day of our mission and we are done our research. We are waiting for our “shuttle” back to “earth” which will be here around noon. Until then, we are still in simulation. Our first duty today is to clean the Hab for the next crew – there is a team coming in from the European Space Agency for a two week mission right after us. Indeed, our last official duty before we leave will be to train the ESA crew on how to use the Hab – how the systems work, how to go on EVA, etc.
Our research has been a complete success. Our brain performance assessment works as we thought it would. Over the course of one week in the Hab, we saw very clear trends each day showing a sharp decrease in brain performance and an acute increase in cognitive fatigue from the time we woke up till the time we went to bed. In other words, the stress and pace of life in the Hab took its toll each day and we were experiencing acute cognitive fatigue by the time we went to bed. In practical terms, this has been quite obvious to us. For instance, last night while we were trying to play cards during our down time before bed all of us made numerous dumb mistakes that were the tells of cognitive fatigue. If you look at the accompanying figure, you see a very obvious decrease in brain performance each day and the corresponding increases in cognitive fatigue. Interestingly, a trend emerged over the course of the week and we saw a slow decline in brain performance over our seven days in the Hab (and a slow increase in over cognitive fatigue). This makes sense, given that we have just worked seven 12 to 16 hour days in a row. And we are exhausted. The crew is definitely in need of some down time after the frenetic pace of a week with a high operational pace.
Our time in the Hab has been the coolest thing I have ever done and it is amazing to think that this crew, and our research, is playing a small but important part in the human effort to explore outer space. Additionally, the potential impact of our technology in areas such as performance monitoring and optimization, concussion assessment, tracking of cognitive impairments such as dementia, and of course fatigue monitoring is immeasurable.
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.