News Release Article from  Canadian Space Agency

The Canadian Space Agency announces a new human health experiment for the International Space Station

The study aims to advance the knowledge and treatment of neurological disorders

October 19, 2016 - Longueuil, Quebec - Canadian Space Agency

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the University of Calgary are collaborating on a new experiment that will study how long-duration missions to the International Space Station (ISS) impact astronauts' brains.

Known as "Wayfinding,” the study will investigate how reduced gravitational forces affect the astronauts' ability to find their way around. This research will provide knowledge that will eventually benefit people on Earth affected by neurological conditions and neural degeneration related to ageing, and may contribute to the treatment of these disorders.

The experiment is slated to begin in 2018. Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will have the opportunity to participate in Wayfinding as part of his six-month mission in 2018-19.

The CSA's investment in this study positions Canadian scientists, in collaboration with the scientific community and our international partners, to spur new discoveries and to achieve world-class science excellence that will improve the lives of Canadians.

Quick Facts

  • The project was selected through a process involving the CSA and the International Space Life Sciences Working Group. The group is comprised of representatives from the CSA, NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the German Aerospace Center, the French Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.
  • Dr. Iaria and his research team will be performing neuroimaging studies on astronauts before they leave for the ISS and upon their return to Earth.
  • The CSA's investment in the study is $728,000 over five years.
  • Canada's participation in the International Space Station program provides Canadian scientists with access to an Earth-orbiting laboratory to conduct research for the benefit of Canadians.
  • Budget 2016 provided up to $379 million over eight years for the Canadian Space Agency to extend Canada's participation in the International Space Station to 2024.

Quotes

"Our government's investment in the International Space Station enables scientists to conduct experiments that lead to new insights that may be adapted into treatments and technologies here on Earth. 'Wayfinding' will not only advance our knowledge about the effects of space travel, but it also stands to increase our knowledge about neurological conditions and perhaps help us treat them for the benefit of Canadians.”

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

"This study will give us the unique opportunity to investigate how the lack of gravity affects the complex neural networks responsible for our sense of direction. This knowledge will help us generate effective countermeasures to keep our astronauts healthy and safe during their long-term missions in space, and their subsequent lives on Earth. Moreover, our findings will provide a deeper understanding of a variety of neurological conditions in which getting lost is a prominent symptom.”

Dr. Giuseppe Iaria, University of Calgary, principal investigator for the Wayfinding experiment

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