Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA)
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Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) integrates several diagnostic technologies to measure the effect of the exposure of crewmembers to cosmic radiation. It will improve the understanding of the impacts that radiation has on the human central nervous system functions, and will study the flashes from cosmic radiation that astronauts have reported since the Apollo flights. ALTEA will also provide an assessment of the radiation environment in the ISS.
Livio Narici, Ph.D., University of Rome Tor Vergata and INFN, Rome Italy
Piergiorgio Picozza, Ph.D., University of Rome Tor Vergata and INFN, Rome Italy
Walter G. Sannita, M.D., University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
Italian Space Agency, Rome Italy
Ezio Alippi, Alenia Spazio - Laben, Milano, Italy
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Previous ISS Missions
The predecessor of ALTEA, Alteino, was conducted aboard ISS in April of 2002 during a Soyuz taxi mission.
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- Astronauts in orbit are exposed to cosmic radiation that is of sufficient frequency and intensity to cause effects on the central nervous system, such as the perception of flashes of light that have been reported since the days of Apollo. Radiation exposure represents one of the greatest risks to humans traveling on exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).
- The ALTEA experiment, developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), will measure details about the cosmic radiation passing through a crewmember?s head, while measuring the brain activity and visual perception. Furthermore, ALTEA will measure the particle flux in the U.S. Lab on the International Space Station (ISS), being able to discriminate the type of particles, to measure their trajectories and the delivered energies.
- This will provide in-depth information on the radiation experienced and its impact on the nervous systems and visual perception. ALTEA will also develop new risk parameters and possible countermeasures aimed at the functional central nervous system risks.
The ALTEA hardware is a helmet-shaped device holding 6 silicon particle detectors designed to measure cosmic radiation passing through the brain. The 6 detectors can measure the trajectory, energy, and species of individual ionizing particles. At the same time an electroencephalograph (EEG) will measure the brain activity of the crewmember to determine if radiation strikes cause changes in the electrophysiology of the brain in real time. A Visual Stimulator will perform tests of the astronaut's visual system overall. While not manned the ALTEA hardware will provide a continuous measure of the cosmic radiation in the ISS U.S. Lab. The neurophysiological effects of cosmic radiation in long term space travel have never been explored with the depth of the ALTEA experiment. Data collected will help quantify risks to astronauts on future long distance space missions and propose optimized countermeasures.
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Astronauts from Apollo missions onward have reported seeing unexplained light flashes (phosphenes), which were attributed to abnormal brain function caused by space radiation. Outside the protection of Earth's magnetic shield, ISS crewmembers are exposed to increased radiation, but the radiation environment is even more severe as exploration crews leave Earth's geomagnetic field and transit to other planets. The tests conducted using the ALTEA hardware will help scientists characterize how the heavy ion radiation of space impacts the brain and whether or not that radiation causes any temporary or permanent abnormalities in the brain function and the visual system in particular.
Data provided from ALTEA can lead to further understanding of how radiation may affect brain function on Earth as well as in space. While the levels of heavy ion radiation are much higher in space that on Earth, any understanding into the way radiation may alter brain function is extremely useful to neuroscientists of these studies. Ion therapies to treat brain tumors will also benefit from the ALTEA results.
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Once the crewmember being tested has set up the experiment he or she then wears the ALTEA helmet for roughly 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to completely orbit the Earth. ALTEA will require 6 of these tests.
A typical manned run of the experiment involves setting up the ALTEA hardware and performing calibrations before the ALTEA helmet is donned by the crewmember. The crewmember will then wear the helmet for 90 minutes while the sensors in the helmet are collecting EEG measurement. The unmanned run does not require crewtime after it is launched.
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- L. Di Fino, F. Belli, V. Bidoli, M. Casolino, L. Narici, P. Picozza, A. Rinaldi, D. Ruggieri, V. Zaconte, S. Carozzo, W.G. Sannita, P. Spillantini, V. Cotronei, E. Alippi, G. Gianelli, A. Galper, M. Korotkov, A. Popov, V.P. Petrov, V.P. Salnitskii, S. Avdeev, W. Bonvicini, G. Zampa, N. Zampa, R. Vittori, C. Fuglesang, D. Schardt. ALTEA data handling. Advances in Space Research ;37:1710-1715. 2006
- S. Licoccia, M.L. Di Vona, P. Romagnoli, L. Narici, M. Acquaviva, S. Carozzo, S. Di Marco, M. Saturno, W.G. Sannita, E. Traversa. Nanocomposite polymeric electrolytes to record electrophysiological brain signals in prolonged, unconventional or extreme conditions. Acta Biomaterialia ;2(5):531-536. 2006
- C. Fuglesang, L. Narici, O. Picozza, W.G. Sannita. Phosphenes in Low Earth Orbit: Survey Responses from 59 Astronauts. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. ;77:449 - 452. 2006
- R. Scrimaglio, G. Nurzia, E. Rantucci, E. Segreto, N. Finetti, A. Di Gaetano a, A. Tassoni, P. Picozza, L. Narici, M. Casolino, L. Di Fino, A. Rinaldi, V. Zaconte. Simulation of the ALTEA experiment on the International Space Station with the Geant 3.21 program. Advances in Space Research. ;37:1770-1776. 2006
- V. Zaconte, F. Belli, V. Bidoli, M. Casolino, L. Di Fino, L. Narici, P. Picozza, A. Rinaldi, D. Ruggieri, S. Carozzo, W.G. Sannita, P. Spillantini, G. Nurzia, E. Rantucci, R. Scrimaglio, E. Segreto, V. Cotronei, E. Alippi, G. Gianelli, A. Galper, M. Korotkov, A. Popov, V.P. Petrov, V.P. Salnitskii, S. Avdeev, W. Bonvicini, G. Zampa, N. Zampa, R. Vittori, C. Fuglesang, D. Schardt. ALTEA: flight model calibration at GSI. Advances in Space Research. ;37:1704-1709 2006
- Narici L, Bidoli V, Casolino M, De Pascale MP, Furano G, Modena I, Morselli A, Picozza P, Reali E, Sparvoli R, Licoccia S, Romagnoli P, Traversa E, Sannita WG, Loizzo A, Galper A, Khodarovich A, Korotkov MG, Popov A, Vavilov N, Avdeev S, Salnitskii VP, Shevchenko OI, Petrov VP, Trukhanov KA, Boezio M, Bonvicini W, Vacchi A, Zampa N, Battiston R, Mazzenga G, Ricci M, Spillantini P, Castellini G, Carlson P, Fuglesang C. The ALTEA facility on the International Space Station. Physica Medica. ;17 Suppl 1:255-257. 2001
- Fuglesang C, Narici L, Picozza P, Sannita WG. Astronaut light flash survey. ESA Report. ;MSM-AM-AHC-GNC-RP-001. 2004
- Narici L, Belli F, Bidoli V, Casolino M, De Pascale MP, Di Fino L, Furano G, Modena I, Morselli A, Picozza P, Reali E, Sparvoli R, Zaconte V, Sannita WG, Carozzo S, Licoccia S, Romagnoli P, Traversa E, Cotronei V, Vazquez M, Miller J, Salnitskii VP, Shevchenko OI, Petrov VP, Trukhanov KA, Galper A, Khodarovich A, Korotkov MG, Popov A, Vavilov N, Avdeev S, Boezio M, Bonvicini W, Vacchi A, Zampa N, Mazzenga G, Ricci M, Spillantini P, Castellini G, Vittori R, Carlson P, Fuglesang C, Schardt D. The ALTEA/Alteino projects: studying functional effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation. Advances in Space Research. ;33:1352-1357. 2004
- Casolino M, Bidoli V, Furano G, Minori M, Morselli A, Narici L, Picozza P, Reali E, Sparvoli S, Fuglesang C, Sannita WG, Carlson P, Castellini G, Tesi M, Galper A, Korotkov M, Popov A, Vavilov N, Avdeev S, Benghin V, Salnitskii VP, Shevchenko OI, Petrov VP, Trukhanov KA, Boezio M, Bonvicini W, Vacchi A, Zampa G, Zampa N, Mazzenga G, Ricci M. Spillantini, P. The Sileye-3/Alteino experiment on board the International Space Station. Nuclear Physics, A. ;113:71-78. 2002
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Flight Model ALTEA helmet and detectors, the front one panel removed and put on a side for seeing the visual simulator at KSC. Image courtesy of Unione Astrofili Italiana.+ View Larger Image
Astronaut, Bill MacArthur wearing the ALTEA helmet during baseline data collection at JSC. Image courtesy of Unione Astrofili Italiana.+ View Larger Image
NASA Image: ISS013E65565 - ALTEA helmet inside the U.S. Laboratory of ISS during Expedition 13.+ View Larger Image
NASA Image: ISS013E65567 - ISS Science Officer, Jeff Williams, in the U.S. Laboratory of ISS next to the ALTEA helmet during Expedition 13. + View Larger Image
Screen shot of Expedition 13 ISS Science Officer, Jeff Williams, using the ALTEA helmet during one of the 90 minute sessions.+ View Larger Image
STS-116/12A.1 ESA Astronaut Christer Fuglesang performs the ALTEA investigation. In this image, Fuglesang?s head is located in the ALTEA helmet.+ View Larger Image
NASA Image: ISS014E16195 - Astronaut Sunita Williams, Expeditions 14 and 15 Flight Engineer, receives assistance from Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, Expedition 14 Commander, in donning a sensor studded cap as she prepares to calibrate equipment for the Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) experiment in the Destiny laboratory module.+ View Larger Image
NASA Image: ISS014E16208 - Astronaut Sunita Williams, Expeditions 14 and 15 Flight Engineer, wears the Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System (ALTEA) experiment helmet while conducting the experiment in the Destiny laboratory module.+ View Larger Image Information Provided and Updated by the ISS Program Scientist's Office