BGU | The Sky is No Limit

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe joined forces to conduct a unique experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2022. The experiment sought to understand what happens to brain activity during long space journeys, when the body is in zero gravity for an extended period. Former IDF pilot and entrepreneur Stibbe utilized his 2-week stay aboard the ISS as part of the Rakia mission to carry out a series of experiments testing ideas and technologies developed by Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs. One of the studies, led by Prof. Oren Shriki of the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at BGU, examined electrical activity in the brain under conditions of microgravity. For the experiment, Stibbe brought on board a portable electroencephalography (EEG) headset for measuring brain activity, developed by the Israeli start-up company Stibbe and two other astronauts used the headset to

take several measurements of their own brain activity in microgravity conditions and these were compared with measurements taken before their stay in space and after their return to Earth. The experiments developed in Prof. Oren Shriki’s laboratory were integrated into the software, which was uploaded to the ISS ahead of the mission. The analysis of the results was led by graduate student Ofir Almagor. Prof. Shriki and Almagor attended the launch of the Axiom-1, the Dragon spacecraft that carried Stibbe and three other astronauts to the ISS, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They then returned to a dedicated control center in Israel, from where communications with Stibbe and the other astronauts took place during the experiments. The study had two main objectives: the first was to demonstrate the practical feasibility of monitoring longitudinal changes in brain activity and cognitive function during a continuous stay in

space; And the second, to identify and quantify such changes, to monitor the health of astronauts’ brain and neural systems. Long-term journeys in space, such as a future trip to Mars, will require monitoring of astronauts' brains and neural systems. Previous measurements used EEG systems based on conductive gel, which are cumbersome and complicated to use in zero gravity conditions. In contrast, the system sent to the ISS included more than 100 dry electrodes, which do not require the use of conductive gel. “We believe that it is very important to characterize the differences in brain activity while resting and during the performance of cognitive tasks in space," says Prof. Shriki. "Experiments of this type may enable better decision making in maintaining the health of the astronauts, which is important for future space flights.”

"Experiments of this type may enable better decision making in maintaining the health of the astronauts, which is important for future space flights. "

Prof. Oren Shriki and his student Ophir Almagor at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo: Courtesy


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