The impact of a short-period head-down tilt on executive function in younger adults


Abstract Microgravity has been shown to be a significant stressor on the cardiovascular system and the brain due to the redistribution of fluids that occurs in the absence of gravitational force, but there is scarce literature surrounding the effects of microgravity on cerebral hemodynamics and cognition. Understanding the early effects that simulated gravity has on cognitive function is essential for developing proper physical and cognitive countermeasures to assure safe and effective cognitive/decisions making while astronauts prepare for the initial launch or when they arrive in a microgravity environment. Therefore, this study aims to determine how an acute simulation of microgravity would alter cerebral oxygenation and executive functions. Sixty-five young healthy participants (22 ± 6 years, 21 females) completed a thirty (30) minute horizontal (0 0 tilt) followed by a 90-min − 6° head-down-tilt (HDT) protocol. Cerebral oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex was monitored throughout the testing session using near-infrared spectroscopy. Cognition was also measured using a computerized Stroop Task. Our results demonstrate that cerebral oxygenation was higher during HDT compared to the horizontal supine position (9.11 ± 1.3 vs. 7.51 ± 1.8, p = 0.02). For the cognitive results, the non-executive performance of the Stroop task remained stable during HDT (652.46 ± 19.3 vs. 632.49 ± 14.5, p = 0.09). However, reaction time during the executive task performance was improved after the HDT (1058 ± 195–950 ± 158 ms, p textless 0.01). Our results suggest that an acute bout of simulated microgravity can enhance executive functioning.

Scientific Reports