Spaceflight is known to reduce sleep duration and negatively affect sleep quality. While actigraphy can be used to identify such sleep changes, the underlying physiology or causes of such disturbances remain to be understood. Brain assessments can be useful in this context for sleep staging, sleep quality assessments, and identification of alterations in cerebral functioning related to sleep disturbance. However, the Earth-standard technologies for brain imaging—CT, MRI, PET, or even typical polysomnography (PSG) systems—are not suitable for spaceflight.
Electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) are amenable to packaging in small, lightweight and low- power devices. Importantly, they provide complementary electrophysiological and hemodynamic windows into brain physiology. Dr. Strangman has been developing the NINscan series of devices for mobile (including 24-hour) brain assessment. The most recent such device, NINscan-M, is a multi-use brain imaging system that includes a 64-channel NIRS imaging system and has the potential to support 8-channel ECG/EMG, plus other analog and/or digital sensor inputs.
In this project, Dr. Strangman will enhance his current NINscan-M device to create NINscan-SE: a version specialized for sleep and EEG. NINscan-SE will provide up to 8-channel of flexible EEG/EOG/ECG/EMG alongside the 64-channel NIRS imaging, require minimal training for use, and allow up to 4 additional sensors considered key for sleep research and complementary to those available in spaceflight and the various analog environments. Dr. Strangman will also consolidate a suite of software tools to be used with the potentially large NINscan-SE datasets generated by sleep applications. This suite will facilitate data format conversions, as well as basic research and clinical EEG data analysis on the NINscan-SE datasets. Finally, he will conduct experiments in NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) facility during the 2016 campaign to test NINscan-SE in an operationally-relevant environment.
This effort will provide a device plus software tools that will significantly advance the brain- and sleep-assessment capabilities for spaceflight and Earth-based analogs.