What happens to fine motor skills in space?
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Fine motor skills, the precise movement of small muscles in the hands and fingers, are impaired when humans transition from microgravity to a planetary surface according to a multi-year study led by Leidos scientist Dr. Kritina Holden.
The study, part of NASA’s Human Research Program, won best publication in its category in the 2023 Leidos Technical Publication Awards which recognize excellence in scientific research.
Why you should know: Precise hand-eye coordination is required to operate next-generation space technology including touchscreens, small vehicle controls, spacesuits, robotic arms and more. As NASA plans for deep space missions, these findings will inform how to engineer equipment that accounts for impaired dexterity.
Holden’s team studied performance before, during and after missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over the course of several years using a touchscreen app that measured response time and accuracy on tasks like pointing, dragging and tracing shapes.
Results suggest gravitational transitions could negatively impact fine motor skills for extended periods of time and up to one month after returning to Earth.
Overall, this means astronauts may not be immediately capable of performing at their best after long journeys in space.
From the source: “We know that the human body is impacted by the deleterious effects of spaceflight,” writes Holden. “Space travelers will endure many challenges as they embark on future long-duration missions beyond low Earth orbit including isolation, confinement, a closed environment, space radiation and long-duration microgravity.”
Holden said the study will help NASA better understand the unique effects of microgravity on the central nervous system and opens the door for further investigation and countermeasures.
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