Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that weightlessness reduces people’s ability to recognize changes in facial expressions.
According to scientists, their discovery jeopardizes the possibility of flights to Mars, since the flight is up to 1000 days or more, which will double the current record for a person staying in zero gravity.
The authors note that the crew will be in a confined space for several months. Under such conditions, it will be vital for astronauts to competently build relationships with each other.
The ability of astronauts to correctly read each other’s emotional expressions will be paramount to effective teamwork and mission success. Our results indicate that their ability to do this may be diminished over time.
Matthias Basner, lead author at the University of Pennsylvania
In order to understand the conditions in which astronauts will fly to Mars, the authors asked 16 volunteers to spend 60 days in a bed with their heads tilted at a slight angle of six degrees.
This state is similar to the effect of microgravity on blood flow in the body. During the experiment, participants regularly took cognitive tests specifically designed for astronauts: tests for spatial orientation, memory, risk-taking, and emotion recognition.
In terrestrial conditions, microgravity is simulated by lying on a bed upside down, tilted at an angle of six degrees. One group lay without getting up, while the other two regularly trained in a centrifuge. This device simulates temporary gravity in flight conditions.
As a result of the work, the participants in the experiment began to poorly distinguish emotions in the test images. Increasingly, they read only discontent and anger in those around them.