Israeli startup Brain.Space is all set to begin a crucial phase of testing a helmet designed to monitor the space-induced neurological changes in astronauts’ brains. The company will send its helmets to the International Space Station when the Axiom-1 mission lifts off on April 3 on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket.
The company is planning to fill the gaps in data regarding the neural changes in prolonged space missions that can be vital in assessing day-to-day plastic changes in the brain and predicting how the brain will adapt to long-term space travel. Dubbed neurowellness, the system is a portable Electroencephalography (EEG) headset that will observe differences in cognitive performance in 1-G and microgravity, when exposed to a similar stimulus.
“We actually know that the microgravity environment impacts the physiological indicators in the body. So, it will probably impact the brain and we would like to monitor that,” Brain.Space Chief Executive Yair Levy told Reuters. The company added that the ability to analyze brain waves can be an essential component in making cognitive diagnoses and monitoring the neuro-health of crews in space.
EEG IN SPACE
The experiment has been designed and developed by Ben Gurion University’s Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The helmet will be put to test in the US segment of the Space Station after the Axiom-1 private astronauts arrive on a 10-day mission.
The headset will record and analyze the neurological activity of crewmembers in order to determine whether results obtained in microgravity are different from those achieved on the ground. The headset and data will return to Earth for deeper analysis when Axiom-1 astronauts return.
“By performing the first-ever cognitive experiment using a high-density easy setup EEG system, along with study-proven multi-modal P300 paradigms in space, Brain.Space will be able to both assess whether there are changes in the astronauts’ cognitive functions and characterize their dynamics,” Brain.Space’s website said.
The company aims to demonstrate the feasibility of monitoring cognitive performance and brain activity in a microgravity environment. The team aims to develop future long-term space missions with a simple to use, comfortable and accurate device for daily gauging of astronaut competence.
Three of the four astronauts — including Israeli Eytan Stibbe — will wear the helmet, which has 460 airbrushes that connect to the scalp and perform a number of tasks for 20 minutes a day, during which data will be uploaded to a laptop on the space station. The tasks include a “visual oddball” one that the company says has been effective in detecting abnormal brain dynamics.
Brain.Space, which also said it raised $8.5 million in a seed funding round, bills itself as a brain infrastructure company. “Space is an accelerator. The idea is to revolutionize and make possible brain activity apps, products, and services that are as easy as pulling data from an Apple Watch,” Levy said