PhotonGrav as one of the recommended projects
We are pleased to announce that the European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation with the Ministry of Development and Technology (MoD) and the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), has completed the substantive evaluation in the call for experiments to be performed on the International Space Station (ISS). Among a record number of 66 applications, a list of 18 recommended experiments was drawn up, which included the PhotonGrav project submitted by Cortivision sp. z o.o.!
In connection with the mission of the Polish astronaut Sławosz Uznański to the ISS, a number of experiments are planned which, due to the special and unique conditions on the space station – are not possible to carry out on Earth (POLSA, 2023). Potentially realized experiments were created in accordance with Terra Novae or ESA education strategies. The objectives of the Terra Novae research programme to which the PhotonGrav project was submitted revolve around the exploration and extension of the human presence in space, focusing on the Moon and Mars.
Opportunity to support the development of brain-computer interfaces
The aim of the PhotonGRAV project is to verify the effectiveness of near-infrared technology (fNIRS) in low Earth orbit concerning the recording of brain activity for the construction of brain-computer interfaces operating in a microgravity environment. There are opportunities for the use of BCIs in space conditions (Zapala et al., 2016). This is because limb control is significantly impaired in the microgravity state, whereas BCI communication bypasses muscle conduction.
To overcome the above difficulties, we propose to replace the EEG recording with the fNIRS method, which has greater robustness to the effects of extreme environmental conditions that include microgravity, there is a much higher risk of distraction due to task load. Recent research results using fNIRS technology show that, with fairly high efficiency, the state of ‘drifting attention’ from the activity being performed can be identified by the activity of two brain structures: DLPFC and MFG (Harrivel et al., 2013; Zapala, Augustynowicz, & Tokovarov, 2022).
In our experiment, we want to use monitoring of both brain areas as an indicator of trials during BCI checks, those with a high risk of error due to distraction. In this way, our newly brain-computer interface would have a means to take into account the state the user is in, predicting their responses.
Significance of the project and its future
We would like to recall here Cortivision’s recent participation as a supplier of the fNIRS device on the ISS in the Axiom Space 2 mission. This was the first time that fNIRS was used to record the astronauts’ brain activity during spaceflight.
We believe that the opportunity to realize this experiment will contribute to the knowledge of how to assess the hemodynamic activity of the brain in low Earth orbit and under reference conditions on the ground. Furthermore, it will allow us to prove the applicability of fNIRS technology for BCI communication in microgravity conditions. In both of these conditions, this project will be a world-first.
Zapała D, Jaśkiewicz M, Ratomska M, Francuz P. (2016). Use of Brain-Computer Interfaces under Extreme Environmental Conditions. Pol J Aviat Med Bioeng Psychol 2016; 22(2): 39-48. DOI:10.13174/pjambp.31.12.2016.04
Harrivel, A. R., Weissman, D. H., Noll, D. C., & Peltier, S. J. (2013). Monitoring attentional state with fNIRS. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 861.
Zapała, D., Augustynowicz, P., & Tokovarov, M. (2022). Recognition of attentional states in VR environment: an fNIRS study. Sensors, 22(9), 3133. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/s22093133
Znamy WSTĘPNĄ Listę polskich eksperymentów na Międzynarodowej Stacji Kosmicznej – POLSA – Polska Agencja Kosmiczna. POLSA. (2023, October 30). https://polsa.gov.pl/wydarzenia/polskie_eksperymenty_na_iss_wyniki/