EXPERIMENT RECORD N° 8223
HPA - Hand Posture Analyser
  1. 2004 • ISS 8S (Soyuz TMA-4) Dutch "Delta" Mission
  2. 2004 • ISS 8S (Soyuz TMA-4) Dutch "Delta" Mission
  3. 2005 • ISS 10S (Soyuz TMA-6) Italian "Eneide" Mission
Life Sciences:
  • Muscle/skeletal system
Patrik Sundblad
patrik.sundblad@esa.int
V. Zolesi (1), A. Norfini (1), F. Lacquaniti (2), P. Pastacaldi (3), F. Posteraro (4)
(1)  
Kayser Italia S.r.l
Via di Popogna 501
57128 Livorno
ITALY
Tel:  
+39(0)586562200
Fax:  
+39(0)586562222
e-mail:  
v.zolesi@kayser.it
a.norfini@kayser.it
(2)  
Universitá Tor Vergata
Via di Tor Vergata 135
00133 Rome
ITALY
e-mail:  
lacquaniti@caspur.it
(3)  
Azienda Ospedaliera Pisana
Unitá Operativa di Chirurgia
Via S. Maria 110
56126 Pisa
ITALY
Tel:  
+39(0)50996878
Fax:  
+39(0)50995472
e-mail:  
p.pastacaldi@ao-pisa.toscana.it
(4)  
Ospedale della Versilia
Via Aurelia 335
55043 Lido di Camaiore
ITALY
Tel:  
+39(0)5846057063
Fax:  
+39(0)5846059746

Experiments executed on the upper limbs are assuming increasing significance in Human Physiology research in space, principally for two reasons:

  • the upper limbs are the principal means of locomotion for subjects living in space;
  • fatigue can have a significant effect on the hand during ordinary work, or in particular for extra-vehicular activities.

The degradation of the performances affecting the muscle-skeletal system can be easily recognised on the upper limbs, by executing specific scientific protocols, repeated through the permanence of the subject in weightless conditions.

Another aspect relevant to the effect of microgravity on the upper limb is associated with the alteration of motor control programs, affecting not only the bio-mechanics of the subject, but in general all his/her psychophysical conditions, induced by the totally different environment. Specific protocols on the upper limbs can facilitate the studies on learning mechanisms for motor control. The results of such experiments can be transferred to Earth, and can be useful for the treatment of subjects with local traumas or diseases of the Central Nervous System.

The HPA (already used on board the ISS during the "Marco Polo" mission with astronaut R. Vittori and during Increment 7 and 8 of the ISS, with astronauts E. Lu and M. Foale) is a facility of instruments for the study of the performances of the upper limbs of astronauts.

The HPA experimental program focuses on the following aspects:

  • General understanding of the neurophysiologic mechanisms of the reaching, grasping and launch motor control during normal and altered gravity conditions
  • Assessment of the muscular performance degradation of the astronauts during their permanence in space.

HPA is a facility of instruments for the study of the performances of the upper limb of the astronauts. In particular the experimentation addresses two main aspects:

  • Motor coordination during reaching and grasping of objects;
  • Muscle fatigue assessment during the execution of sustained handgrip and pinch force.

The HPA hardware consists of two dynamometers (Handgrip and Pinch Force Dynamometers - HGD/PFD) for measuring handgrip and pinch forces, together with a gloved instrumentation device (Posture Acquisition Glove - PAG) that the astronaut wears, which allows for measurement of the bending angles on individual fingers. This is attached to an electronic box (Wrist Electronic Box - WEB), which houses an inertial tracking system made up of accelerometers and gyroscopes in order to determine the linear and angular motion, rotation and acceleration of the hand and forearm in all directions.

The experiment is performed each day, during 6 consecutive mission days, approximately at 9:00 a.m., after breakfast. If occasionally it is not possible to perform the experiment after breakfast (e.g. Crewmember busy with high priority operations), the daily session can be rescheduled for the next useful time slot; in this event the following session will restart in any case after the subsequent breakfast.

The duration of each session is approximately 45 minutes (6 sessions preferred but minimum 3), for a total of 4.5 Hours. Additional time for set up (1 hour) and stowage (30 minutes) is required. Therefore the total crew time during the mission is 6 hours.

The HPA experiment is complemented by three on-ground Baseline Data Collection (BDC) sessions that will be performed before the flight (one BDC session) and post-flight (two BDC sessions). The BDC session before flight will be performed during the Experimental Operator training session. One post-flight BDC session will be performed as soon as possible after landing, while the second BDC session will take place one week later.

The Hand Posture Analyser experiment will consist of three separate research protocols:

  • Crew Health Investigation on Reduced Operability ( CHIRO - Zolesi, Pastacaldi), aims at assessing the forearm muscle performances during the exertion of sustained force in weightlessness, with visual and proprioceptive feedback. Proprioception is the sense of the position of parts of the body, relative to other neighbouring parts of the body. Unlike the five exteroception human senses of sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing, that advise us of the outside world, proprioception is the "sixth" sense that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. The proprioceptive sense is believed to be composed of information from sensory neurons located in the inner ear (motion and orientation) and in the joints and muscles (stance). There are specific nerve receptors for this form of perception, just like there are specific receptors for pressure, light/dark, temperature, sound, and other sensory experiences ;
  • Manipulation Activities In Space (MAIS - Posteraro, Zolesi), is intended to measure the kinematical data of the wrist and fingers of one astronaut during reaching and grasping, with thumb and index fingers, of small objects in front of the subject;
  • Imagery of object Motion Affected by Gravity In Null-gravity Experiments (IMAGINE - Lacquaniti, Zolesi, Zago), is intended to measure the kinematical data of the wrist and fingers during the execution of virtual actions.
The experiment was undertaken with two long‐duration astronauts during Expeditions 7 and 8 and one astronaut during a short‐duration mission (Soyuz 10S / Soyuz 9S exchange) in 2005. The HPA hardware consisted of two dynamometers (Handgrip and Pinch Force Dynamometers - HGD/PFD) for measuring handgrip and pinch forces, together with a gloved instrumentation device.

With respect to power performance parameters, the Maximum Voluntary Contraction (greatest amount of tension a muscle can generate and hold) decreased by up to 45% in weightlessness for the handgrip measurements whereas the Static Effort (which investigates the subject’s muscle fatigue, measuring force/effort applied for a period of time) globally increased for both hand grip tests and pinch force tests. Muscular microfilaments performance could be reduced by the reduction of the concentration of the calcium ion Ca2+ or by other physiological factors correlated with the Ca2+ concentration. This process is without adaptation in long term space missions as confirmed by Maximum Voluntary Contraction and Static Effort parameters.

With respect to muscle Contraction Speed (ability to change force intensity with the time) for long‐ duration astronauts, contraction speed decreases in the global time window by up to 45% across the mission for the hand grip tests but with no significant difference in the pinch force tests. This is probably correlated with the same factors involved in the Maximum Voluntary Contraction decrease for handgrip measurements.

In weightless conditions the force level control and the maintenance of constant force level improves, however for higher target level (75% of Maximum Voluntary Contraction), the muscular fatigue effects are evident. This effect is predominant and more evident in weightlessness, probably dependent on the same physiological factors involved in the Maximum Voluntary Contraction decrease for handgrip measurements. Proprioceptive feedback seems to produce better results in weightless conditions.
[1]  
P. Pastacaldi, P. Orsini, F. Bracciaferri, G. Neri, M. Porciani, L. Liuni, V. Zolesi, (2002), "Short term microgravity effect on isometric hand grip and precision pinch force with visual and proprioceptive feedback", COSPAR, F1.1-0013-02.
[2]  
V. Zolesi, A. Norfini, G. Neri, (2003), "Hand Posture Analyzer: a Facility for the Study of the Human Upper Limb on the ISS", 54th IAC Conference, DOI: 10.2514/6.IAC‐03‐G.P.15.
[3]  
P. Pastacaldi, P. Orsini, F. Bracciaferri, G. Neri, M. Porciani, L. Liuni, V. Zolesi, (2004), "Short term microgravity effect on isometric hand grip and precision pinch force with visual and proprioceptive feedback", Advances in Space Research, 33, 8, pp. 1368-1374.
[4]  
J.J.W.A. van Loon, F.J. Medina, H. Stenuit, E. Istasse, M. Heppener, R. Marco, (2007), "The National-ESA Soyuz missions Andromède, Marco Polo, Odissea, Cervantes, DELTA and Eneide", Microgravity Science and Technology, 19, 5-6, DOI: 10.1007/BF02919448, pp. 9-32.
[5]  
V. Zolesi, (2007), "Long-Term Microgravity Effect on Isometric Hand Grip and Precision Pinch Force with Visual and Proprioceptive Feedback", presentation.
[6]  
F. Pacelli, A. Paoli, Z. Zolesi, A. Norfini, A. Donati, C. Reggiani, (2009), "Implementation and ground validation of a facility for functional and structural analysis of proximal upper limb muscles in microgravity", Basic Applied Myology, 19, 2-3, pp. 77‐86.
[7]  
M. Puglia, M. Balsamo, M. Vukich, V. Zolesi, (2018), "Long-Term Microgravity Effects on Isometric Handgrip and Precision Pinch Force with Visual and Proprioceptive Feedback", International Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 2018, Article ID 1952630 - DOI: 10.1155/2018/1952630.
click on items to display

Figure 1: Handgrip Dynamometer (HGD)

Figure 2: Pinch Force Dynamometer (PFD)

Figure 3: Posture Acquisition Glove (PAG)
 
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