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Spatial orientation and navigation in microgravity

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dc.contributor.author Oman, Charles M.
dc.date.accessioned 2007-05-15T21:08:53Z
dc.date.available 2007-05-15T21:08:53Z
dc.date.issued 2007-05-15T21:08:53Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/37337
dc.description Manuscript for Spatial Processing in Navigation, Imagery and Perception, F. Mast and L. Janeke, eds. en
dc.description.abstract This chapter summarizes the spatial disorientation problems and navigation difficulties described by astronauts and cosmonauts, and relates them to research findings on orientation and navigation in humans and animals. Spacecraft crew are uniquely free to float in any relative orientation with respect to the cabin, and experience no vestibular and haptic cues that directly indicate the direction of “down”. They frequently traverse areas with inconsistently aligned visual vertical cues. As a result, most experience “Visual Reorientation Illusions” (VRIs) where the spacecraft floors, walls and ceiling surfaces exchange subjective identities. The illusion apparently results from a sudden reorientation of the observer’s allocentric reference frame. Normally this frame realigns to local interior surfaces, but in some cases it can jump to the Earth beyond, as with “Inversion Illusions” and EVA height vertigo. These perceptual illusions make it difficult for crew to maintain a veridical perception of orientation and place within the spacecraft, make them more reliant upon landmark and route strategies for 3D navigation, and can trigger space motion sickness. This chapter distinguishes VRIs and Inversion Illusions, based on firsthand descriptions from Vostok, Apollo, Skylab, Mir, Shuttle and International Space Station crew. Theories on human “gravireceptor” and “idiotropic” biases, visual “frame” and “polarity” cues, top-down processing effects on object orientation perception, mental rotation and “direction vertigo” are discussed and related to animal experiments on limbic head direction and place cell responses. It is argued that the exchange in perceived surface identity characteristic of human VRIs is caused by a reorientation of the unseen allocentric navigation plane used by CNS mechanisms coding place and direction, as evidenced in the animal models. Human VRI susceptibility continues even on long flights, perhaps because our orientation and navigation mechanisms evolved to principally support 2D navigation. en
dc.description.sponsorship NASA Cooperative Research Agreement NCC9-58 with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute en
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.subject vision en
dc.subject vestibular en
dc.subject spatial disorientation en
dc.subject navigation en
dc.subject inversion illusion en
dc.subject visual reorientation illusion en
dc.subject spacecraft architecture en
dc.subject head direction cells en
dc.subject place cells en
dc.title Spatial orientation and navigation in microgravity en
dc.type Book chapter en


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